Caracas, Mar 8 (EFE).- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Friday ordered schools and public and private sector work places closed due to blackouts that are affecting roughly 90 percent of the country and have lasted for nearly 20 hours.
The blackouts began at around 5 pm on Thursday and were immediately reported by citizens on social media in the states of Carabobo, Miranda, Barquisimeto, Tachira, Cojedes, Merida, Barinas, Vargas, Nueva Esparta, Aragua and Zulia.
In remarks aired by several media outlets, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez confirmed the suspension of activities ordered by Maduro and said the power failures were due to “electrical sabotage” orchestrated by the opposition “in complicity with imperial powers.”
She did not mention any foreign country in particular, but Venezuela has long accused the United States of carrying out economic warfare against the leftist-led country.
The US has recently imposed severe sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry, a move aimed at cutting off Maduro’s main source of hard-currency income.
Rodriguez said the “technological attack” had caused widespread disruptions and led Maduro to cancel activities at schools and workplaces on Friday.
The government’s move is aimed at easing the task of technicians working to restore electrical service in the affected states, she added.
Also Friday, the speaker of Venezuela’s opposition-dominated but toothless National Assembly (unicameral legislature), Juan Guaido, toured several Caracas streets to assess the situation.
Guaido, who says Maduro’s May 2018 re-election victory was fraudulent and in late January proclaimed himself Venezuela’s interim president, expressed concern for people in hospitals and reiterated his call for more mass anti-government protests on Saturday.
He blamed government corruption for the situation and lamented that the country is suffering blackouts despite possessing the world’s largest oil reserves.
Guaido has been recognized by the US, several large European nations and many other countries as interim president.
China, Russia and India are among the dozens of nations that recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state.
State-owned electricity operator Corpoelec said on Thursday afternoon that the Guri hydroelectric plant – a facility in southern Venezuela that is the source of much of the country’s electricity – had been hit by sabotage.
Electricity Minister Luis Motta Dominguez also gave the same assessment in remarks to state-run VTV television.
“We’ve been the target once again of electrical warfare … but as you know here there’s a government of high moral standards. They’re not going to defeat us,” Motta said Thursday.
He said then that electrical service was expected to be restored in just three hours, but the blackouts have lasted much longer.