Large parts of Venezuela hit by new blackout

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A new blackout across large parts of crisis-hit Venezuela, including the capital Caracas, forced many to spend another night in the dark on Tuesday.

The electricity shortage -- the biggest in a week -- hit a large section of the capital, with social media posts from residents across the country suggesting significant areas in at least 20 of the 23 states of Venezuela were also affected.

No reason for the blackout was immediately given by the government or the state electricity company Corpoelec.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido -- whose claim to be interim president is supported by around 50 nations -- had previously called for protests against public service failures to be held Wednesday.

Power cuts have occurred sporadically since the massive blackout of March 7 left the country in the dark for five days, with electricity being rationed outside of Caracas.

Water supplies have also been interrupted, along with transport and communications, forcing many people to trim their work days to six hours.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro has blamed US-backed sabotage for the massive blackouts that have deprived millions of power, blaming “electromagnetic, cyber and physical” attacks against the Guri hydroelectric power plant, which produces 80 percent of the country’s energy.

The opposition blames a failure to maintain critical infrastructure and Guaido on Saturday launched what he promised will be a “definitive” escalation of pressure to force the country’s embattled leftist leader from office.

He called for a huge nationwide turnout on Wednesday, urging his followers to redouble their efforts to maintain pressure.

“Everyone to the streets, let’s start the final phase of the end of the usurpation!” He said.

The United States meanwhile has stiffened its economic sanctions against Maduro, and one top US official warned Venezuela’s military that it must protect the rights of peaceful protesters.

Facing intense pressure at home and abroad, the Maduro government has sought to weaken Guaido.

It has stripped his parliamentary immunity, authorized his prosecution for proclaiming himself acting president, and banned him from holding public office for 15 years.

Guaido said last week he feared he could be abducted by government agents.

Washington and its allies view Maduro as illegitimate since he took office in January for a second term following elections widely seen as deeply flawed.

Maduro is supported by the Venezuelan military, China and Russia, and said on Wednesday he was inclined to accept international aid, following a meeting with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

A UN Security Council meeting called by Washington is set to be held Wednesday to discuss the Venezuelan crisis.

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