Blackout darkens much of Venezuela in latest taste of economic woes

Mr Guaido told thousands of supporters he would embark on a tour of the country before leading a nationwide march on the capital

The Maduro government is becoming increasingly isolated as more and more countries blame it for the economic crisis, which has prompted more than three million people to leave Venezuela.

The government of Nicolas Maduro denounced a "sabotage" against the main electric power dam in the country, after a massive blackout left Caracas and vast regions of Venezuela in the darkness.

Venezuelan opposition activists scuffled with police and troops on Saturday morning in the run-up to a rally meant to keep up pressure on President Nicolas Maduro, as electricity remained intermittent after the country's worst blackout in decades.

By many accounts the blackout hit 22 of 23 states, and it struck the capital at the peak of the evening rush hour Thursday, sending thousands of people on long nighttime treks home through some of the world's most violent streets. There was no word as to when the power cut might end, with fears that it could last for days - a daunting prospect for Venezuelans already struggling to survive amid punishing shortages of food, medicine and cash.

"We're exhausted of going so many hours without power, we want Maduro to leave", said Maricela Ruiz, 55, holding a sign at a rally in the western city of San Cristobal.

A group of people demonstrates in favor of President Maduro's Government, during a power outage in Caracas, Venezuela.

The oil-rich OPEC nation was plunged into darkness on Thursday evening in what the governing Socialist Party called an act of US-sponsored sabotage but opposition critics called the result of two decades of mismanagement and corruption.

Customers line up at a gas station in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, March 8, 2019.

Several columns of security forces moved through the city on motorcycles.

Blackout darkens much of Venezuela in latest taste of economic woes
Blackout darkens much of Venezuela in latest taste of economic woes

"The doctors tried to help her by pumping manually, they did everything they could, but with no electricity, what were they to do?" said her uncle Jose Lugo.

Emilse Arellano said urgent dialysis for her youngest child had to be canceled Friday, after a night during which staff worked by the light of cellphones.

The U.N. refugee agency said on Friday that Venezuelans lodged almost one-quarter of a million asylum applications in 2018 alone, double that of the previous year. "Without light. Total madness", he said.

The putrid odor of rotting flesh hung around the entrance to Caracas' main Bello Monte morgue on Friday where refrigerators had stopped working and anxious relatives gathered outside, waiting to be allowed to bury their dead.

"The electrical war announced and directed by United States imperialism against our people will be defeated", Mr Maduro tweeted.

Following Maduro's decision to close the borders to keep out desperately needed humanitarian aid, the country was completely isolated on Friday. "We are going to recover this important service for the population", Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said in comments broadcast over state television.

The state power company Corpoelec said there had been sabotage at the Guri hydroelectric plant in Bolivar state, one of the largest in Latin America. It gave no details.

The U.S. and a host of South American and European nations have thrown their support behind Guaido, while Russia, China and others have said they support Maduro. Guaido is acting as interim president until new elections are held, while Maduro refuses to schedule them.

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