Monday night was pitch black for most of Venezuela after the nation suffered a massive blackout on Monday afternoon. It was the fourth major blackout this year, and resulted in a chaotic and frightening night for much of the country.
In Caracas, the power reportedly went out in the afternoon on Monday, plunging the city into a blackout during rush hour. The subway stopped, traffic lights were off, and workers evacuated offices. As night approached, many rushed to find a way home before the city went entirely dark.
“The only thing that matters to me is getting home as soon as possible to avoid getting robbed,” Julio Penalver, a 52-year-old handyman, told Bloomberg.
By Tuesday morning Caracas had its power back, according to the government, and four states had a partial return of power. But at its worst, nearly the entire country was without power: the New York Times noted that unconfirmed social media reports said 23 of Venezuela’s 24 states were without power. Netblocks, a group that monitors internet activity, reported that 94 percent of the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure was offline.
People flooded the streets on Monday as they realized that the nation had been hit not by a brief loss of power, which has become common in Venezuela, but by a major blackout.
“I was just heading to work again when the lights went off,” Pedro Rojas, a 40-year-old businessman in Caracas, told the New York Times. “I just thought it was momentary, because this always happens here. When I started hearing rumors about it being nationwide, then I understood it was happening again.”
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Government officials blamed the blackout on an “electromagnetic attack,” without providing any further details.
“Those who’ve systematically attacked the noble people of Venezuela in all kinds of ways will once again be confronted with the mettle and courage that we, the children of our liberator Simón Bolívar, have demonstrated in the face of difficulties,” Communications Minister Jorge Rodríguez said, according to the Associated Press.
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After the most recent major power outage, in March, President Nicolás Maduro accused the U.S. of attacking its power grid. It was a devastating week-long blackout that left many without water or the means to determine whether their loved ones were safe.
Rodriguez said Monday that security forces had been deployed to keep the peace.
While government officials have blamed unnamed attackers, experts and critics say the power grid has been neglected and is in awful condition from lack of investment and maintenance. The nation is still in the middle of a political crisis, with the U.S. and some 50 other nations recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s president.
“They destroyed the electrical system and have no answers,” Guaidó posted on Twitter on Monday.
Cover: People cross a street during a blackout in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, July 22, 2019. The lights went out across much of Venezuela Monday, reviving fears of the blackouts that plunged the country into chaos a few months ago as the government once again accused opponents of sabotaging the nation's hydroelectric power system. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)