Venezuela Opposition Protesters Clash With Police as Blackout Lingers

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2019-03-09

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Anti-government protesters clashed with security forces Saturday at a designated rally site in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, venting frustration over a nationwide power outage and the effects of years of economic and political instability.

As supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaido gathered on Avenida Victoria, they yelled "murderers" at riot police as they pushed against their shields. Police later withdrew from the area.

President Nicolas Maduro's Socialist Party called for a rival demonstration to protest what it maintains is the United States' imperialistic approach toward the oil-rich country. The U.S. has placed crippling oil sanctions against the government in efforts to cut off its sources of funding.

Much of the country remained without power following Thursday's blackout, one of the longest in recent memory, the cause of which remains unknown. The outage exacerbated Venezuela's political and economic crisis, endangering hospital patients and forcing school and business closures.

Services slowly resumed in Caracas and in the states of Miranda and Vargas, where the country's international airport and main port are located. The blackout persisted in the western states of Tachira and Zulia while power in other western states was unstable.

Guaido blamed the blackout on government corruption and mismanagement while the Socialist Party claimed it was part of a U.S.-sponsored plot to force Maduro from power.

Guaido is the leader of Venezuela's National Assembly. He declared himself the legitimate interim president in January, dismissing Maduro's 2018 election victory as a fraud. The move is supported by the U.S. and about 50 other countries.

Guaido's declaration has intensified the crisis in Venezuela, home to the world's largest oil reserves, which has suffered more than four years of recession, hyperinflation and widespread shortages of basic goods.