A blackout that began yesterday afternoon and later grew to affect most of the country continued to wreak havoc in Venezuela today, forcing the government to order the closure of all schools and places of work for the day. Today, the government announced that the measure would be extended into tomorrow.
Minister of Communication Jorge Rodriguez blamed the blackout on a “new attack” against the country’s electrical system. In a televised address yesterday afternoon, Rodriguez stated that the regime had been able to restore power to almost all of the country “in record time”, a claim that was counterfactual.
Without providing details or evidence, Rodriguez said that a “terrorist” attack had knocked out equipment at the Simon Bolivar hydroelectric plant. Rodriguez also shared a number of images on his Twitter account throughout the yesterday afternoon and today showing what he claims is the site of the even that caused the blackout.
The image below shows electrical equipment on fire, for which Rodriguez blames “criminals”:
The video below shows a firefighter on the scene of the fire at approximately 8:45 AM this morning:
The images below show the damaged equipment. In the tweet, Rodriguez claims that “terrorists” started the fire that consumed the equipment:
In a televised address, vice president Delcy Rodriguez blamed U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Senator Marco Rubio for the blackout, and qualified the trio as perverse and criminal.
“Colectivo Armado” Attack Journalists, Opposition Convoy Outside Legislature
A group of pro-government civilians attacked an opposition vehicle convoy outside of the National Assembly grounds this afternoon in Caracas, damaging the one that was carrying interim president Juan Guaido. The group also attacked journalists who had gathered at the site to cover a legislative session that was taking place.
The video below shows the group outside of the main gates of the National Assembly yelling insults and other obscenities:
The group arrived as the opposition-controlled legislature held a meeting to discuss the ongoing crisis.
According to the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Prensa (National Press Worker’s Union, SNTP) reported that the group “corralled” journalists from several outlets, including El Estimulo, Efecto Cocuyo, VPI TV, El Pitazo, VivoPlay, and TVV Noticias. The SNTP also claims that the group physically assaulted and stole the equipment of journalists from TVV Noticias and VivoPlay, and that it “attempted to assault” a journalist from NTN24.
During the meeting, interim president Juan Guaido said that he would announce tomorrow the details of what he is calling “Operation Liberty”, a set of measures that he claims will bring about Maduro’s exit from power.
The term colectivo armado literally means “armed group” or “armed collective”, and is used in Venezuela to describe groups of individuals clad in civilian clothing who attack, threaten or otherwise intimidate people and groups opposed to the Maduro regime. While some colectivo armado members are civilians motivated by ideological conviction, others are members of official state security forces.