More blackouts hit Venezuela as opposition, government rally

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"The little food we have is going bad".

The blackout marked another harsh blow to a country paralyzed by turmoil as the power struggle between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido stretches into its second month and economic hardship grows. Caracas is one of the world's most crime-ridden cities, so people set out for home early, well before the sun went down.

The U.N. refugee agency said on Friday that Venezuelans lodged almost one-quarter of a million asylum applications in 2018 alone, double that of the previous year.

"To submit the Venezuelan people to various days without electricity to attack, to mistreat, so that vital areas would be without power".

A blackout swept across Venezuela on Thursday, leaving many states without power.

Venezuelans struggling to put food on the table anxious that the few items in their fridges would spoil.

Hospitals struggled to cope and at least one hospital patient died when her respirator stopped working. Venezuelans with chronic conditions liked diabetes searched for ice to preserve their limited supplies of medicines.

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On Thursday evening, Venezuela was hit by a massive power outage, which Guaido said resulted from the "corruption" of Maduro's government. More than 50 countries, including Germany, have recognized Guaido and support his plan to lead Venezuela to fair elections.

Numerous more than 3.4 million Venezuelans who have fled thus far left with valuable skills- including energy expertise - and the government's allegations of a saboteurs' plot was met with skepticism by many in Caracas.

"This is chaos", said Jorge Jaimes, a physician who joined opposition protesters on Avenida Victoria in Caracas.

"We are tired. Exhausted", said Estefania Pacheco, a sales executive forced to walk 12 kilometers (7 miles) from her office in eastern Caracas to her home across town. While some hospitals were able to rely on back-up power sources, others were dark.

Speaking on Friday, he said: "It's clear who is responsible for this disaster".

Emilse Arellano said urgent dialysis for her child had to be canceled Friday, after a night where staff worked in the light of cell phones.

"We're not offering services and we don't have any patients staying here because the generator is not working", said Chiquinquira Caldera, head of administration at the San Lucas clinic in the city of Maracaibo, as she played a game of Chinese checkers with doctors who were waiting for power to return.

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U.S. President Donald Trump's special representative for Venezuela pledged on Thursday that Washington would "expand the net" of sanctions on the South American nation, including more on banks supporting President Nicolas Maduro's government.

Guaido and Maduro, whose chief backers are Russian Federation and Cuba, planned rival demonstrations as they seek to energize supporters.

"The electrical war announced and directed by United States imperialism against our people will be defeated", Mr Maduro tweeted.

Guaido took to Twitter to blast Maduro for the outage.

Large lines formed at the few gas stations open as people fetched fuel for generators. Fourteen of Venezuela's 23 states are still affected by the outages, El Nacional newspaper reported.

"By attacking the automated control system, the machines stop as a protective mechanism", he said.

Abrams said TPS was under consideration and he would discuss it with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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"Maduro's policies bring nothing but darkness".

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