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Venezuela Faces Power Outage, Again

Mar 27, 2019
Originally published on March 27, 2019 6:32 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

There's been another major power outage in Venezuela. This is the second one this month. And this blackout has closed government offices and schools. It's shuttered businesses and also crippled communication systems. It's also put the already embattled government of President Nicolas Maduro further on the defensive. NPR's Adrian Florido reports from the capital, Caracas.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: The nearly nationwide blackout rippled across the country Monday night following an explosion at a major hydroelectric plant.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JORGE RODRIGUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: On Tuesday morning, government spokesman Jorge Rodriguez blamed the outage on an attack by those trying to bring down the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro. It was the same explanation offered after the major blackout earlier this month. But opposition leader Juan Guaido, who's been trying to topple Maduro, said those are excuses.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JUAN GUAIDO: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "They're telling us to buy candles and lanterns," Guaido said. "They have no idea our electric system is collapsing." In the capital, Caracas, the subway shut down. Lines at gas stations circled the block two or three times. There was no running water.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER TRICKLING)

FLORIDO: Diana Duarte was filling jugs from a natural spring trickling from a hillside. Her new normal, she said.

DIANA DUARTE: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "These blackouts are making our situation worse," she said. "We don't even have water to drink." But Felix Sanoja, who sells a socialist newspaper in downtown Caracas, doesn't believe that is the government's fault. Such huge blackouts are rare in Venezuela.

FELIX SANOJA: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "So when there's a boom from one day to the next," he said, "we know we're being attacked." He said harsh U.S. sanctions are only making matters worse. Alejandro de Santos doesn't buy the attack line. He had pulled over to find reception because cell towers were down.

ALEJANDRO DE SANTOS: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "People say this is sabotage, but it's not," he said. "The grid has been deteriorating for years, and these explosions just happened to coincide with the rise of a man named Juan Guaido." Under this government, he said, everything is falling apart. By Tuesday evening, the government had restored power to parts of the capital, but much of the country's interior was still in darkness.

Adrian Florido, NPR News, Caracas.

(SOUNDBITE OF KOETT'S "LAST NIGHT ON RIVER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.