Half of Venezuela lost power last night, six days before voters choose mayors across the country in the first electoral test for President Nicolas Maduro’s government.
Electricity Minister Jesse Chacon said on state television last night that power would be restored by the end of the day, and investigators were dispatched to the Arenosa substation in southern Bolivar state where the failure occurred. He had blamed “sabotage” for a Sept. 3 breakdown at the same station that left about 60 percent of the country without power.
“This is sabotage, live and on air,” Maduro said in a televised speech from the presidential palace last night. “Attention all armed forces of the state: the fascists are getting desperate before the elections.”
Venezuelans elect all 337 mayors in the country this Sunday in what the opposition has called a referendum on Maduro’s government amid 54 percent annual inflation, shortages of everything from flour to razor blades, and utility failures. Maduro, who temporary stopped his speech during the blackout, said nothing will stop the local vote from being held.
The Venezuelan opposition has blamed a lack of investment and poor management for regular blackouts.
“The country is in a blackout and the government is offering pathetic declarations,” opposition leader Henrique Capriles wrote in a Twitter post last night. “Take the responsibility for once!”
State television said at least 12 out of the country’s 24 states and districts, including three states with refineries, temporarily lost power. State-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA said in an e-mailed statement that all oil facilities were functioning normally.
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