Electric power returns to part, but not all, of Venezuela

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Electric power returns to part, but not all, of Venezuela

The turmoil suffered by the citizens of Venezuela continued to increase in momentum with the latest power outage in the country, hurting the population and the barely functioning economy.

The massive outages have compounded the economic and political crisis in Venezuela, where the government and opposition accuse each other of being responsible for the infrastructure breakdown.

A man sells yuca as residents shop for food, mainly non-perishable to store, following a nationwide blackout, in Caracas, Venezuela, on March 10, 2019.

Socialist President Nicolas Maduro - who is facing a challenge to his rule by the leader of the opposition-led congress, Juan Guaido - has blamed the blackout on an act of "sabotage" by the United States at the Guri hydroelectric dam, but experts say it is the outcome of years of underinvestment. "The food we had in our refrigerators has spoiled, businesses are closed, there's no communication, not even by cell phone", Ana Cerrato, 49, told Reuters.

"We need help! We are in a humanitarian crisis!" added one Caracas resident.

Incidents of looting of shops and supermarkets have also been reported in Caracas over the weekend.

The National Guard rounded up more than 40 people at the scene, tied their hands behind their backs and ordered them to lie face down on a road that authorities had blocked during the confrontation, a Reuters witness said.

"We're all upset that we've got no power, no phone service, no water and they want to block us", said Rossmary Nascimiento, 45, a nutritionist at the Caracas rally. Power was restored to most of Caracas, the capital, and to central states such as Miranda, Aragua and Carabobo by Saturday morning, but there was a second power outage soon after.

"The regime at this hour, days after a blackout without precedent, has no diagnosis", he said at a news conference on Sunday. He has been recognized as Venezuela's legitimate leader by the United States and most Western countries.

But Maduro says the prolonged blackouts are the result of a U.S. cyber attack.

At hospitals, the lack of power combined with the absence or poor performance of backup generators led to the death of 17 patients across the country, non-governmental organization Doctors for Health said on Saturday. "We can not turn away from it", said Guaido, the 35-year-old leader of the National Assembly who in January declared himself interim president, triggering a power struggle in the oil-rich country of 30 million.

"You have to pay in dollars and it's so expensive for us", Gutierrez said.

The US is "urging" and "cajoling" countries around the globe -especially India- to stop buying Venezuelan oil, as Washington continues choking the country financially, hoping this will "motivate" people to topple President Maduro.

Sources in the energy sector, OPEC member Venezuela's main source of foreign earnings and a vital generator of revenue for Maduro's government, said that exports from the main oil terminal of Jose had been halted by the blackouts.

"There are countless conversations going on between members of the National Assembly and members of the military in Venezuela; talking about what might come, how they might move to support the opposition", Bolton said. Restrictions on imports have affected the provision of spare parts, while many skilled technical personnel have fled the country amid an exodus of more than 3 million Venezuelans in recent years.

PDVSA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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