A blackout swept across Venezuela on Thursday, leaving many states without power.
Authorities quickly blamed the outage on anti-government saboteurs.
Speaking on Venezuelan national television, VTV, Electricity Minister Luis Motta Dominguez called the blackout an “electricity war” and act of sabotage.
He alleged, without offering evidence, that the attack took place at Venezuela’s main hydroelectric power station in Guri in the southern state of Bolivar, which provides the country with about 70% of its energy.
“This is an attack (on) the government, this is an attack (on) the people and there are communities that in less than 15 minutes had already gone out to protest and close streets,” Dominguez said.
“People generally wait until service is re-established. So, this verifies and confirms that this was pre-planned,” the minister added.
Blackouts are a daily occurrence across Venezuela, but one of this magnitude is rare.
Rampant inflation and food scarcity have gripped the country under embattled President Nicolas Maduro’s leadership and thousands have fled across the border into neighboring countries amid the shortages, political turmoil and soaring crime rates.
Reuters reported local media as saying this outage affected the capital, Caracas, as well as at least 15 of the country’s 23 states.
Critics of Venezuela’s government blamed corruption and underinvestment, with opposition leader Juan Guaido — who declared himself the country’s Acting President in January — describing the blackout as further proof that time is almost up for Maduro.
“Venezuela knows that the light will arrive with the end of the usurpation,” he tweeted.
Just over an hour later, Maduro posted on Twitter: “The electric war announced and led by the American imperialism against our people will be defeated. Nothing and no one can beat the people of Bolivar and Chavez. Maximum unity of the Patriots!”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hit back at the President, describing the situation as the result of Maduro’s “incompetence.”
“The power outage and the devastation hurting ordinary Venezuelans is not because of the USA. It’s not because of Colombia. It’s not Ecuador or Brazil, Europe or anywhere else. Power shortages and starvation are the result of the Maduro regime’s incompetence,” Pompeo tweeted.
“Maduro’s policies bring nothing but darkness,” he added in a separate message, then, “No food. No medicine. Now, no power. Next, no Maduro.”