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Venezuelans Protest Power Cuts That Put Maduro in a Bind

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(Bloomberg) — Caracas residents blocked streets and set fires after electricity went out again Sunday in Venezuela’s capital and some other regions, fueling a climate of political unrest.

Power went out in all of western Zulia state at 9:55 a.m., Willy Casanova, mayor of the city of Maracaibo, said on Twitter. The outage extended to most of the country, the Panorama newspaper reported. Netblocks.org, which tracks internet disruptions globally, said only 15 percent of the country had internet after the power failure.

Weeks of power cuts have increased instability in Venezuela. With President Nicolas Maduro unable to restore power, he has accused National Assembly head Juan Guaido — whom some 50 governments, including the U.S., recognize as interim president — of a conspiracy.

Maduro in a speech late Sunday on national television announced a 30-day power rationing plan, which he said would help the country deal with the outages. The embattled president also warned against any further unrest.

Fuerzas Armadas, a main traffic artery in the capital, was a focal point of the protests, which followed power cuts over the preceding two days. Maduro said this week that the government plans to ration power as authorities try to fix what industry experts say is a poorly maintained national grid that badly needs investment.

Guaido said two protesters on Fuerzas Armadas suffered bullet wounds, without giving further details. Pro-government paramilitary motorcycle gangs are taking the lead in repressing protests because many soldiers are also upset by the deteriorating conditions, he said.

“Of course we would like a transition to democracy that is peaceful, democratic, quick above all and immediate,” Guaido said in an interview on CNN en Espanol Sunday night. The loss of lives during this power struggle results from Maduro’s resistance to a democratic and constitutional transition of power, he said.

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said power went out Friday and Saturday evenings because of attacks on the national power grid, Venezuelan national television reported. Without providing evidence, Maduro has blamed President Donald Trump and the Venezuelan opposition for alleged attacks seeking to spark unrest and oust him from power.

Schools will remain closed on Monday while public and private institutions work a shorter day to 2 p.m. until further notice, Rodriguez said on state television.

The alleged attacks caused considerable damage at the Guri hydroelectric plant, affecting generators, transmission and distribution, the government said in an emailed statement. The government said it’s applying “all its strength” to repair the system.

(Updates with Guaido comments starting in sixth paragraph.)

–With assistance from Andrew Rosati.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jose Orozco in Mexico City at jorozco8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ney Hayashi at ncruz4@bloomberg.net, Mark Niquette

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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