Thousands of Venezuelans poured into the streets of Caracas to support National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as the capital lost electrical power again amid rising anger and frustration.
“I lost all my food,” Paula Alvarez, a 42-year-old nanny, said before the rally. “I’m tired of living in misery.”
Tempers were fraying. Police in riot gear scuffled and fired tear gas at protesters loyal to Guaido, who’s recognized as interim president by about 50 countries, including the U.S. Electricity had been partially restored on Friday night after about 19 hours. The capital remained mostly calm during the power failure.
Power went out again Saturday morning, though, as supporters of Guaido and the man he seeks to oust, President Nicolas Maduro, gathered for dueling rallies.
Maduro to Reappear
Maduro, who’s been president for almost six years and is accused by some of stealing last year’s election, has been silent and out of public view for nearly two days. He was scheduled to speak at Saturday’s rally.
When power first went out on Thursday, Maduro alleged sabotage and blamed the U.S. for the outages, which affected nearly the entire nation.
Work and school were suspended on Friday after thousands were forced to walk home on darkened highways and avenues in urban centers the night before. Flights were grounded and doctors and nurses at hospitals worked to coax power from unreliable generators.
“It’s important to know who’s responsible for this disaster,” Guaido said in a video posted on Twitter on Friday. “They keep looking for a guilty party when it’s corruption that has caused this mess.”
“The solution to this is to stop the usurpation,” he said.
On Saturday, public transit remained stalled and most businesses were closed. The international airport near Caracas, the country’s largest, suspended flights.
Guaido returned to Venezuela last week after secretly crossing the border into Colombia on Feb. 22 to oversee a delivery of aid provided by the U.S. The effort failed and sparked fighting at border crossings.
While Guaido has appealed to the armed forces to recognize him as the rightful head of state, only hundreds out of the thousands of Venezuelan soldiers have deserted Maduro’s regime. Over the past week, he’s focused on calling for partial strikes backed by unions representing some of Venezuela’s estimated 4.5 million public administration workers.