(Bloomberg) -- The lights are returning for millions in Venezuela after a major power failure knocked out electricity to about two-thirds of the country on Monday afternoon.
The incident, which the government said was caused by an “attack,” was reminiscent of another failure in March which dragged on for as long as 10 days in some areas and prompted Nicolas Maduro’s administration to begin power rationing outside of the capital city Caracas to normalize the grid.
Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said that school and work activities would be suspended on Tuesday in order to keep power demand lower and state-run electricity company Corpoelec said that service had been restored to all of Caracas, with work still to be done in other states nationwide.
Maduro and his government have insisted that the country’s electrical problems are a product of sabotage and sophisticated attacks by the U.S. and local opposition who are seeking to remove him, while industry experts and critics point to a lack of investment and maintenance.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has claimed to be the legitimate leader of Venezuela and is recognized as such by more than 50 countries following Maduro’s dubious re-election in 2018, said he’ll take to the streets on Tuesday to rally people against the government.
“They tried to hide the tragedy with rationing across the country but their failure is evident,” he wrote in a post on Twitter. “They destroyed the electric system and they don’t have any response.”
Power failures in March cut into Venezuela’s already flagging oil production, with output falling to zero in some areas for several days. Electricity was cut off at joint venture crude operations involving Petroleos de Venezuela SA, Chevron and Rosneft on Monday afternoon in the east of the country, according to two people with knowledge of the situation who aren’t authorized to speak publicly on the issue. PDVSA, as the state producer is known, didn’t reply to a request for comment.
Since the crippling blackout in March, the government has been rationing electricity in more than 20 states, excluding Caracas from the restriction to avoid spurring protests. Still, for many the only assurance is trying to buy a generator in preparation for the next failure.
On Monday, crowds of Venezuelans packed the Caracas sidewalks as shops and restaurants closed. Many trekked home after the buses provided by the city’s transit system filled up and with the subway system closed. Amid Internet disruptions, drivers parked along the city’s highways seeking a signal from cell phone tower.
“The only thing that matters to me is getting home as soon as possible to avoid getting robbed,” said Julio Penalver, a 52-year-old handyman as he walked home to Petare, the large area of slums in eastern Caracas.
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