blackout leaves commuters scrambling, silences president
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[June 28, 2014]
By Brian Ellsworth and Patricia Velez
CARACAS (Reuters) - A blackout cut power
to much of Venezuela on Friday afternoon, snarling traffic in the
capital Caracas and other major cities and interrupting a televised
speech by the president in the country's second nationwide electricity
outage in a year. —
The blackout affected Caracas for about three hours, panicking
commuters anxious to get home before dark in the crime-ridden city,
but power was gradually restored by early evening and underground
metro trains were running again. Venezuela's second city, Maracaibo,
was also hit.
An outage at a power station in the center of the country led to
other generation centers going offline and disrupting the supply
across a broad swath of the Andean nation, Electricity Minister
Jesse Chacon told state television.
The OPEC nation has suffered an increasing number of blackouts in
recent years, which critics have attributed to low electricity
tariffs and limited state investment following the 2007
nationalization of the sector.
The blackout came mid-afternoon as President Nicolas Maduro was
speaking during a broadcast of the awards ceremony for a national
journalism prize. On television again in the evening, he said it was
not clear what led to the "strange" incident.
"We are going to investigate thoroughly and objectively ... The
causes will be known because, be aware, there are no reasons linked
to the service itself. There was not more demand than supply ... it
was not peak hours," he said.
He had blamed the last nationwide blackout in December on saboteurs
Critics say the power problems are a symptom of 15 years of
socialist policies that have left the country without a reliable
network despite having the world's largest oil reserves. Late
socialist leader Hugo Chavez nationalized the power sector seven
years ago amid a wave of state takeovers.
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Maduro this year weathered three months of often violent opposition
demonstrations demanding his resignation that were in part motivated
by complaints over shoddy public services. He said the protests were
a U.S.-backed attempt to overthrow him.
A spokesman at state-run oil company PDVSA said there were no
reports of any impact to the country's 2.9 million barrel-per-day
(Additional reporting by Eyanir Chinea and Peter Murphy; Editing by
James Dalgleish and Mohammad Zargham)
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