Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido urged lawmakers yesterday to declare a “state of alarm” to pave the way for the delivery of international aid as the country’s devastating blackout entered its fifth day.
Power was restored to some areas of the country over the weekend but — with residents and businesses fearing that refrigerated food will spoil — service was patchy and power often lasted just a few hours before dropping out again.
Guaido headed an emergency session of the opposition-majority National Assembly to force the issue of a “state of alarm.” But even that fell victim to the blackout, as the partly-restored electricity supply failed an hour into the meeting.
“We cannot turn away from this tragedy our country is going through,” said the 35-year-old National Assembly leader who in January declared himself interim president, triggering a power struggle in the oil-rich South American country of 30mn.
Businesses and schools remained closed as President Nicolas Maduro extended an order issued when the blackout began on Thursday.
In any event, the lack of public transport made travel difficult, even in Caracas. The situation on the ground was still confused as Maduro battled to restore power and maintain the upper hand in his struggle with Guaido.
A ball of flame flared across the darkened sky over southeastern Caracas in the early hours of the morning when the Humboldt power station erupted in a massive explosion, increasing the chaos in an area where looting was reported on Sunday.
“I felt like I was in a horror movie,” said Carolina Molina, who witnessed the blast from her window.
State-owned electricity company Corpoelec declined to comment on the explosion.
The fire that followed the blast was still smouldering by midmorning.
A metal beam holding one of the huge transformers had melted and a permiter wall had been blackened.
Guaido — recognised by more than 50 countries as interim president — has no means to enforce a “state of alarm” as the army, police and civil service remains in Maduro’s hands.
But Guaido hopes a declaration by the National Assembly would open the door to foreign intervention in the country in the name of delivering humanitarian aid.
He told supporters at a rally on Saturday he was ready to authorize a foreign miitary intervention.
Maduro has shut Venezuela’s border to keep out humanitarian aid, dismissing it as a precursor to a US military “invasion”. Maduro, who has blamed the blackout on US “sabotage” of the country’s main hydroelectric complex at Guri, said a massive amount of food aid, water and fuel would be distributed yesterday.
He ordered that hospitals — where patients were languishing without proper treatment, and where at least 15 people reportedly died due to a lack of kidney dialysis treatment — should be given top priority.
Last month, Maduro used the military to block an opposition bid to bring in more than 250 tons of supplies over land from Colombia and Brazil.