Guaido calls mass demos in Venezuela to protest blackout


Caracas (AFP)

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido called for mass demonstrations throughout the country on Tuesday to protest against a blackout that has left millions without power for the past four days.

"Tomorrow at three o'clock in the afternoon, all of Venezuela will be on the streets," Guaido -- recognized as interim president by more than 50 countries -- said in a speech to the National Assembly.

The 35-year-old National Assembly leader has challenged President Nicolas Maduro by calling on the opposition-dominated assembly to decree a "state of alarm" in the country.

Describing the situation in Venezuela as a "catastrophe," he said the blackout had claimed "dozens" of lives since it began on Thursday.

He said the continuing power outage meant water supplies were scarce, food had rotted and transportation and communications had either been interrupted or were unreliable.

"There is no normality in Venezuela and we will not allow the tragedy to be normalized," he told lawmakers. "That is why we have the decree," said Guaido.

Venezuela's blackout problems, he said, was "the product of the corruption and ineptitude of the regime."

In the decree, which is expected to be approved by the opposition-dominated assembly, Guaido calls for "international cooperation" to overcome the crisis, and orders the 10 diplomatic representatives he has appointed abroad to coordinate that support.

He also called on the military and security forces to "refrain from preventing or hindering" Tuesday's protests.

The opposition-dominated National Assembly has no political power, having been sidelined by Maduro's creation of a Constituent Assembly in 2017 which is stacked with his supporters.