Venezuela’s government told workers and school children to stay home on Tuesday as the second major blackout this month left the streets of Caracas mostly empty amid deepening economic crisis.
President Nicolas Maduro, which blamed the U.S. and the opposition for the previous power cut, said an “attack’’ on its electrical system caused the blackout that first hit on Monday.
The outage shuttered businesses, paralyzed the country’s main oil export terminal, and stranded commuters.
In eastern Caracas, several dozen people unable to work in stores and offices were boarding a bus toward the poor hillside community of Filas de Mariche, where residents said services were worse than in the city centre.
“If the blackout lasts two days down here, it’ll last five up there,” said Maria Ojeda, 20, who works at a piñata shop in Caracas.
“I’m going home because there’s no work, there’s nothing going on.”
The blackout came amid tensions with the U.S. over the weekend arrival of Russian military planes, which led Washington to accuse Moscow of “reckless escalation’’ of the country’s political crisis.
Russia, which has major energy investments in OPEC member Venezuela, has remained a staunch ally of Maduro, while the U.S. and most other Western nations have endorsed opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Citing the constitution, Guaido in January assumed the interim presidency, saying Maduro’s re-election in 2018 was fraudulent.
Maduro says Guaido is a U.S. puppet attempting to lead a coup against him and has blamed worsening economic difficulties on sanctions imposed by Washington.
Power had returned to many parts of Caracas by noon on Tuesday, but businesses remained idle and few pedestrians were walking the streets.
Those who went to work because they had not heard that the workday had been canceled were returning to their homes.
“How am I supposed to find out, if there’s no power and no internet?” said dental assistant Yolanda Gonzalez, 50, waiting for the bus near a Caracas plaza. “Power’s going to get worse, you’ll see.”
Venezuela had suffered its worst blackout ever starting on March 7. For nearly a week it left millions of people struggling to obtain food and water and hospitals without power to treat the sick.
Looting in the western state of Zulia destroyed hundreds of businesses.
Electricity experts say the outages are the result of inadequate maintenance and incompetent management of the power grid since the late President Hugo Chávez nationalised the sector in 2007.
U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to rule out military intervention in Venezuela, although regional leaders have expressed grave misgivings about U.S. troops being deployed to Latin American soil.