Ahead of broad opposition protests planned for Saturday, Caracas and other large cities across Venezuela were once again plunged into darkness Friday evening, just as the country struggled to fully recover from prior days-long outages.
The latest blackout began just after 7:00pm, leaving most of the capital as well as Valencia, Maracay, San Cristobal and Maracaibo without electricity, again crippling the country's transport, communication, water, and hospital infrastructures.
Reports this week have described the recent spate of mass outages as taking the already ailing and largely neglected infrastructure back to the Middle Ages, with descriptions of rotting and souring food on supermarket shelves, citizens making oil lamps, and Caracas residents washing dishes in nearby El Avila mountain streams due to lack of electricity to the city's water pumps.
Venezuelans have also had to traverse long distances on foot to get to work, or complete simple tasks like retrieving food and supplies.
This weekend's outage marks the fourth power outage this month, which began on March 7. In response to the earlier outages, Venezuela's Defense Ministry vowed to deploy armed forces to protect the national electricity system.
President Nicolás Maduro blamed Washington for the earlier outages, claiming over Twitter that the Trump administration was engaged in an "electrical war" which was "announced and directed by American imperialism against our people."
Walking for hours, making oil lamps, bearing water. For Venezuelans today, suffering under a new nationwide blackout that has lasted days, it's like being thrown back to life centuries ago. — AFP
The US has repeatedly denied the charge while taking increasingly bolder steps to attempt to legitimize self-declared "Interim President" Juan Guaido. Simultaneously Maduro has stripped Guaido of public office, barring him for 15 years.
Previously, Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez blamed the last blackout on "an attack on the charging and transmission centre" at the Guri dam, which crucially supplies the country of 30 million with 80 percent of the power.
Urgent: Major new power outage registered across #Venezuela at 11:10 PM UTC (7:10 PM VET); network data shows national connectivity now at just 10% #SinLuz #Apagon #29Mar ⬇️https://t.co/WyLncHOQXM pic.twitter.com/yx316rfzBQ— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) March 29, 2019
According to early unconfirmed reports, this latest blackout appears also the result of hydroelectric water generators inside the Guri power plant failing.
Likely the newest blackout will fuel and exacerbate the intensity of anti-Maduro protests through the weekend.
Perhaps sensitive to the growing anger and frustration of Venezuelans even among Maduro supporters, Rodriguez had previously boasted of the government's ability to bring things back online: "What (last time) took days, now has been taken care of in just a few hours," Rodriguez said, saying the last fix had been made in "record time".
Meanwhile, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have announced that they will have unhindered access to bring aid into the increasingly desperate and struggling country, set to begin in April.
Red Cross officials plan to begin delivering aid to "650,000 people within 20 days" —something which both sides, Maduro and Guaido supporters — are claiming as a victory.