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.
President Nicolás 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.”
Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader whom the United States has recognized as Venezuela’s leader, 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.
Venezuela has suffered periodic power failures for months, as its electrical system has deteriorated along with much of the country’s infrastructure. Though once one of South America’s most prosperous nations, its economy has collapsed because of mismanagement and corruption, leaving people starving and without medical supplies. Millions of Venezuelans have fled the country on foot.
The economic crisis spawned a political one in January, when Mr. Guaidó declared himself president and was formally recognized as the country’s leader by several dozen nations, the United States among them. American officials imposed additional sanctions on Mr. Maduro’s government and have tried to deliver aid, which the Venezuelan authorities — accusing the Americans of trying to force regime change — have largely blocked at the borders.