Venezuala moves to restore power and end blackouts

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Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a broadcast at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela March 11, 2019. REUTERS

CARACAS/MARACAIBO, Venezuela (Reuters) – President Nicolas Maduro’s government scrambled on Wednesday to return power to western Venezuela following heavy looting in the country’s second largest city, while China offered to help the OPEC-member nation end its worst blackout on record.

Power had returned to many parts of Venezuela after a nationwide outage last week, with the country’s main port terminal of Jose, which is crucial for oil exports, resuming operations. The government said people could return to work, following several consecutive public holidays due to the lack of electricity.

School will remain suspended until today, Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said in a state television broadcast on Wednesday, adding that power supply had been broadly restored but problems remained in some areas with transformers that had been “sabotaged.”

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The ruling Socialist Party blamed the outage on US sabotage, accusing President Donald Trump of being responsible for several cyber attacks on Venezuela’s main dam.

Looters smashed shop windows and made off with merchandise in more than 300 businesses across the state along the border with Colombia, the Zulia chapter of business organisation Fedecamaras said in a statement.

“About 100 people came into the store and took all the food, the point of sale terminals,” said Maria Centeno, 29, the owner of a store selling food and furniture that was looted on Sunday. “They were people from the community.”

Following the wave of pillaging on Sunday, many businesses sold off their remaining merchandise on the cheap for fear of more looting.

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