As Blackout Plunges Venezuela in Darkness, Maduro Blames the U.S.

Lights Go Out in Venezuela, and Social Media Heats Up

A widespread blackout enveloped much of Venezuela in darkness on Thursday night, stopping subway service in the capital and causing problems around the country, which has been plagued by power failures as its economic crisis has worsened.

The power failure appeared to be more severe than others, however, and the government of President Nicolás Maduro moved quickly to blame its opponents.

The minister of electrical power, Luis Motta Domínguez, said on state television that the blackout was caused by an “attack” on the Guri Dam, a large hydroelectric facility in east Venezuela. Information Minister Jorge Rodríguez, also on the state news network, said that right-wing “criminals” had committed “sabotage” to the dam’s system of generation and distribution.

The officials did not say how much of the country had been affected by the blackout.

Mr. Maduro accused the United States of orchestrating the power failure, writing on Twitter, “The electrical war announced and directed by the imperialist United States against our people will be defeated.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late Thursday that the responsibility rested with Mr. Maduro’s government.

“The power outage and the devastation hurting ordinary Venezuelans is not because of the USA,” he wrote on Twitter. “It’s not because of Colombia. It’s not Ecuador or Brazil, Europe or anywhere else. Power shortages and starvation are the result of the Maduro regime’s incompetence.”

Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader whom the United States has recognized as Venezuela’s leader, also linked the blackout to the government authorities.

“How do you tell a mother who has to cook, an ill person who depends on a machine, and a laborer who needs to work that they’re in a powerful country without light?” he asked on Twitter. He added: “The light will come with the end of the usurpation.”

On social media, many used the hashtag #SinLuz, or Without Light, to share photos and video of cities in nearly total darkness, and of Venezuelans, unable to use public transportation, walking in large numbers through city streets lit only by car headlights. Local news reports showed large traffic jams caused by failed traffic lights.

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