Venezuleans protest power and water woes

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks to a soldier during the opening ceremony of military exercises to mark the 200th anniversary of the historic Battle of Angostura at the Guicaipuro Fort in Miranda, Venezuela, on February 10. Xinhua

CARACAS (Reuters) – Angry Venezuelans set up burning barricades near the presidential palace in Caracas and in other parts of the country on Sunday in protests over constant power outages and shortages of drinking water in the wake of two major blackouts this month.

The situation has fuelled frustration with the government of President Nicolas Maduro and frayed nerves as schools and much of the nation’s commerce have been interrupted by problems with public services for nearly three weeks.

Protesters, some carrying rocks and their faces covered, burnt tyres and tree trunks along a stretch of downtown Caracas as they demanded Mr Maduro improve the situation.

“We’re here fighting for water and power, we’ve gone twenty-some days without water,” said Yofre Gamez, 32, an informal vendor. “They put the power on for two hours, then turn it off at night, it comes on the next day for half an hour and then it goes off again – we’re tired of this.”

Demonstrators reported that one woman had been injured by gunfire, which they attributed to pro-government gangs. Reuters was unable to confirm who fired the shots.

Similar protests took place in other parts of the country, including the central state of Carabobo, where demonstrators burnt tyres and blocked roads, according to witnesses.

Venezuela suffered a week-long nationwide blackout starting on March 7 that left hospitals unable to attend to the sick and businesses giving away perishable food before it rotted.

The power went out again on March 25 and has been intermittent since.

The government has offered a variety of explanations for the blackouts, ranging from Washington-backed cyberattacks to opposition-linked snipers causing fires at the country’s main hydroelectric dam.

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