Power outage in Venezuela enters forth day

CARACAS (AA): The government declared Monday a public holiday in Venezuela as nationwide power outages entered their fourth day. Speaking to official TV channel VTV, Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Rodriguez said all educational institutions, and government and private offices will remain shut on Monday. The Latin American nation plunged into darkness on Thursday evening with power cuts hitting 21 out of 23 states.

President Nicolas Maduro and his government has termed the outage a “sabotage” amid a lingering political crisis in the country. US backed opposition leader Juan Guaido on Sunday addressed a news conference in capital Caracas reiterating his call for the military to stop supporting Maduro. Opposition lawmaker Jose Manuel Olivares on his social media account said 18 people lost their lives in hospitals following the blackout. However, Health Minister Carlos Alvarado, speaking to VTV, denied the claims.

Local media outlet El Pitazo reported the outage appeared to be the result of a failure at the Simon Bolivar hydroelectric plant also known as the Guri Dam in the southern state of Bolivar. The Guri Dam is one of the world’s largest hydroelectric stations and the main power supply to Venezuela’s electrical grid. Venezuela has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10 when Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycotted by the opposition.

Tensions flared when opposition leader Guaido declared himself acting president on Jan. 23 a move supported by the US and many European and Latin American countries. Turkey, Russia, China, Iran, Bolivia and Mexico have put their weight behind Maduro.