A blackout deepens Venezuela’s woes

THE SCENE by the polluted Guaire river that flows through central Caracas was dystopian. Residents from the nearby San Agustín slum had heard that a drainage pipe was leaking into the stream. They scrambled down its concrete banks with plastic containers to catch the water before it mixed with the sewage.

On March 11th Caracas’s 2m people had been without water for four days. That was an effect of the longest power cut ever to hit Venezuela, which affected all 23 states. At least 40 people died, many in the decrepit hospitals. They included several premature babies, whom nurses had tried to save by hand-pumping ventilators for hours on end. Power eventually returned to Caracas, but as The Economist went to press the blackout continued in parts of the country.

Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s dictator, blamed it on sabotage by “imperialists” seeking to topple his government. In a televised address on March 12th he claimed that the “demonic” government of the United States had used electromagnetic waves from mobile devices to disable the power system. The chief prosecutor has called for the supreme court to investigate whether Juan Guaidó, recognised by most Western and Latin American democracies as Venezuela’s interim president, had a hand in sabotaging the power grid.

The United States is...

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