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Massive power cut in Venezuela plunges Caracas into darkness

Yuri Cortez, AFP | Picture taken during sunset in Caracas on July 22, 2019, as the capital and other parts of Venezuela are being hit by a massive power cut.

Venezuela's socialist government is blaming a nationwide blackout on an "electromagnetic attack" against the nation's hydroelectric system.

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Communications Minister Jorge Rodríguez read a statement broadcast on social media Monday in which he said authorities were working to restore service as quickly as possible.

He appealed for calm and said contingency plans had been activated so that medical facilities would not be affected. He said security forces were also being deployed to guarantee peoples' safety.

Authorities attributed an almost week-long outage across Venezuela in March to a U.S.-sponsored electromagnetic attack on the Guri dam, source of around 80% of the nation's power.

But government opponents laid bare years of underinvestment in the nation's grid by corrupt officials who mismanaged an oil bonanza in the nation sitting atop the world's largest crude reserves.

Caracas plunged into darkness

The lights went out in most of Caracas at 4:41 pm (2041 GMT) on Monday while people in other parts of the country took to social media to report the power had gone out there too.

The state-owned power company CORPOELEC only reported a breakdown affecting sectors of Caracas.

The capital was hit by huge traffic jams due to the traffic lights losing power while the sidewalks were full of pedestrians walking home as the metro had stopped running.

An even bigger power outage in March affected all 23 states in Venezuela and lasted a week, paralysing basic services such as the water supply and forcing the working day and school classes to be suspended.

Government blames "terrorists"

President Nicolas Maduro had blamed unnamed "terrorists" for that near-nationwide blackout, claiming they had attacked the Guri hydroelectric plant in the south of the country that supplies power to 80 percent of Venezuela's 30 million inhabitants.

Another huge outage in April left large parts of the country, including Caracas, in darkness, although it lasted hours rather than days.

Experts blame poor management and corruption

"I'm fed up. Necessary repairs weren't carried out. It's always the same thing," Eurimar Guere, 36, told AFP after leaving her office in Caracas.

"Maybe this power cut will be worse than the previous ones."

Blackouts are a common occurrence in Venezuela, especially in remote western regions.

The government usually blames them on sabotage but experts say that a lack of investment, poor management and corruption are the more likely culprits.

"They tried to hide the tragedy by rationing throughout the country, but the failure is clear," said opposition leader Juan Guaido on Twitter.

"They've destroyed the electricity system and they don't have any answers.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

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