Venezuela hit by major blackout, government blames 'sabotage'

Opposition supporters clash with police in a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas Venezuela

Opposition supporters clash with police in a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas Venezuela

A power outage left much of Venezuela in the dark early Thursday evening in what appeared to be one of the largest blackouts yet in a country where power failures have become increasingly common.

Thousands of commuters flooded into the streets because subway service was stopped.

The blackout hit 22 of 23 states by some accounts.

The government keeps home power bills exceptionally low - just a couple dollars a month - relying heavily on subsidies from the Maduro administration, with is under increasing financial duress.

Pro-government officials often blame outages involving Venezuela's mismanaged and poorly maintained power grid on the opposition.

Officials did not indicate how much of Venezuela had lost power, though local media said almost all of the country had been blacked out.

In one Caracas neighborhood, residents threw up their windows and began banging on pots and pans in a sign of protest while others shouted out expletives and Maduro's name. He said electricity in Venezuela's eastern region had been restored within two hours.

As blackout eases, Venezuela braces for rival rallies

Weddle's arrest, which came a week after Venezuela deported a team from U.S. Spanish-language television network Univision, was condemned by opposition leader Juan Guaido, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, and several U.S. lawmakers from both major parties.

Electricity outages are frequent in Venezuela, where the economy is collapsing under hyperinflation, with chronic shortages of food and medicine and a mass emigration of more than 3 million citizens.

Most Western countries, including the United States and Germany, have recognized Guaido as the OPEC nation's legitimate head of state and back his plan to install a transition government ahead of free elections.

Guaido took to Twitter to blast Maduro for the outage.

"The electric energy war declared and directed by the USA imperialists against our people will be destroyed".

Venezuela's electrical system was once the envy of Latin America but it has fallen into a state of disrepair after years of poor maintenance and mismanagement.

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