Tension mounts in Venezuela over rival protests

People cross a street during a power cut in Caracas Venezuela

People cross a street during a power cut in Caracas Venezuela

The Venezuelan opposition and US officials say Maduro's attempts to pin blame on his political adversaries is absurd, and that government corruption and mismanagement over many years caused the blackout and wider deterioration of the economy.

Electricity has remained intermittent after the country's worst blackout in decades. Venezuelan authorities routinely accuse the opposition of sabotaging infrastructure, though rarely provide evidence. "No food. No medicine".

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

Humanitarian aid trucks went up in flames last month when Maduro deployed troops at the Colombian border to prevent the opposition from bringing in relief supplies. The latter - who enjoys the support of the U.S. as well as most of the European Union and Latin American countries - proclaimed himself an interim president back in January.

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

The Socialist Party has called for a competing march on Saturday to protest against what it calls imperialism by the United States. Elliott asked European banks to take steps to shield individual Venezuelans' assets from Maduro's government. Venezuela can still contest the award.

Energy Minister Luis Motta agreed the blackout was caused by sabotage.

The entire nation was affected by the blackout. State oil company PDVSA did not respond to a request for comment.

Large groups had returned to their homes Thursday after walking long distances in the dark as public transportation came to a halt.

In the upscale Caracas neighbourhood of Los Palos Grandes, several hundred people gathered for a rally where Guaido was expected to speak. "I want a normal country".

"I can't work. I can't do anything", said Veronica Padrino, a lawyer who attended a women's day rally in Caracas.

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A supporter of Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido, speaks to National Bolivarian Police officers during a demo in Caracas on March 9, 2019.

Riot police blocked protesters as thousands of people took to the streets Saturday with tensions rising between opposition leader Juan Guaido and President Nicolas Maduro after crisis-wracked Venezuela emerged from the chaos of an electricity blackout.

Washington has imposed crippling sanctions on Mr Maduro's government in a bid to cut off its sources of funding. The outage exacerbated Venezuela's political and economic crisis, endangering hospital patients and forcing school and business closures.

Maduro had blamed the blackout on U.S. sabotage and shut down offices and schools on Friday.

The agency says the blackout stems from an attack on the Guri power plant and that officials are working to restore service. They have not updated their timetable.

"We've been targeted again in the power war", Maj.

He added that shortages of parts as well as a lack of skilled technicians, many of whom have fled the country, will complicate any efforts to fix any damage.

"The empire of the United States has once more underestimated the awareness and resolve of the people of Venezuela".

The sanctions covered $7 billion worth of assets and officials expect Venezuela to lose $11 billion worth of oil exports over the next year.

Critics say corruption and underinvestment have left the country's power grid unable to function, while Maduro says the problems are intentionally created by political adversaries.

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