Venezuela Deploys Troops “To Protect National Power Grid” From US “Aggression”

Though some parts of Venezuela's power grid have reportedly begun to come back online after the country was plunged into nation-wide darkness beginning Thursday evening, the mass blackout crisis continues, which Caracas has blamed on US-orchestrated saboteurs.

To prevent further "sabotage" Venezuela's Defense Ministry has vowed in an official statement via state TV social media channels to deploy armed forces to protect the national electricity system for the duration of the power outage.

“All the security agencies, civil protection and the nation’s integral defense system are deployed to protect and help the people across the country,” a statement said, via Bloomberg. This as official accusations against Washington for conducting what Maduro previously called a US "electricity war" have become even more strident.

The defense ministry previously vowed to put more security patrols on the streets after dark, as already high-crime areas of Caracas are now considered no-go zones as a result of the blackout.

Meanwhile the problems now appear to be compounding as Venezuela's already aging and mismanaged infrastructure continues to collapse in a domino effect of problems precipitated by the electrical grid mass failure.

The AP summarizing the worsening crisis, now hitting many sectors:

Venezuela’s worst power and communications outage on Friday deepened a sense of isolation and decay, endangering hospital patients, forcing schools and businesses to close and cutting people off from their families, friends and the outside world. While electricity returned to some parts of Caracas nearly 24 hours after lights, phones and the internet stopped working, the blackout was another harsh blow to a country paralyzed by economic and political turmoil.

Payments can't be processed, resulting in cash-only transactions, which is problematic considering the bolivar is worth nothing:

Many of the few shops that were open were only accepting cash because without electricity and the internet they couldn’t process debit card payments, a common method of doing transactions in Venezuela since hyperinflation transformed the bolivar into one of the world’s most worthless currencies

Venezuela's worst ever power outage in recent history has continued since Thursday, as video and photos continue to come out of the cash and resource strapped country showing entire cities blanketed in darkness.

Stretching into day two of the mass electrical shutdown, 23 out of 24 states remain in darkness, according to the AP, in a prolonged situation now reaching crisis levels given reports that hospitals are struggling to keep back-up generators running and many businesses are forced to remain shuttered.

Caracas streets Thursday evening, via the AFP/Getty

The nation-wide blackout quickly turned into a blame-game over who's at fault, with many in the opposition blaming the Maduro government's mismanagement and notorious corruption, and with pro-regime voices blaming right-wing saboteurs taking orders from the United States.

Caracas has even gone so far to point the finger at Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who only yesterday as part of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing said that the US should promote “widespread unrest” in order to bring down the Maduro government. Though offering no specific proof Caracas officials accused the US and opposition activists of causing "pandemonium" for several days, culminating in the blackout.

President Nicolas Maduro gave brief public acknowledgement of the outage on Twitter, saying, “The electricity war declared and directed by the imperialist United States against our people will be overcome!” and added, “No one can defeat the people of Bolivar and Chavez. Maximum unity patriots!”

According to the AP the blackout struck during Thursday evening's peak rush hour period, and after extending through the night Maduro reportedly ordered all schools and government locations closed. Businesses were further ordered closed in order allow work crews easy access to the failing power infrastructure.

Power in some parts of Caracas has reportedly begun to return, though remains off or intermittent in may other parts of the country. Some parts of the country reportedly had power restored within hours, but others remain in darkness now 24 hours later.

According to VOA news Venezuelan officials "said the hydroelectric station at the Guri Dam, one of the world’s largest, had been sabotaged, but offered no evidence."

And predictably, US officials capitalized on the Venezuelans' plight, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo taking to Twitter to say: “Maduro’s policies bring nothing but darkness,” and “No food. No medicine. Now, no power. Next, no Maduro.”

Pompeo also expressly denied pro-Maduro officials' accusations that the United States and its regional allies were engaged in acts of sabotage aimed at regime change.

According to the AP, limited social media posts coming out of Venezuela by those who still had cell phone charges and signals included images of darkened cities that looked like "ghost towns".

The AP report described:

One user posted a video of a nurse manually pumping air into the lungs of an infant. Others posted photos of long lines of cars queuing up at gas stations in hopes of getting fuel. A man anguished that he’d gone 17 hours without hearing from his mother.

“What impotence!” he lamented.

And crucially, the AP continued, "Netblocks, a non-government group based in Europe that monitors internet censorship, said online connectivity data indicates the outage is the largest in recent record in Latin America."

The extreme nature of the blackout impacting cell and internet communications also continued in to Friday: "The observatory warned Friday that some of the remaining networks were starting to fall offline as generators and backups began depleting and cell towers shut down," the AP reported.

However, 23 hours in to the mass outage there were signs of electricity coming back to some regions of the country, with Net Blocks still reporting "new outages slowing the recovery" and internet connectivity back up to 20%, down from just 2% nationwide earlier in the day Friday.

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