The Associated PressCARACAS (AP) — Venezuelans on Monday converged on a polluted river in Caracas to fill water bottles and held scattered protests in several cities as growing chaos took hold in a country whose people have had little power, water and communications for days.
A 3-year-old girl with a brain tumor languished in a Caracas hospital, awaiting treatment after doctors started surgery but then suspended the operation when nationwide power outages first hit on Thursday, said the girl’s fearful mother, who only gave her first name, Yalimar.
“The doctors told me that there are no miracles,” said Yalimar, who was hoping her daughter would be transferred Tuesday to one of the few hospitals in Venezuela that would be able to finish the complex procedure.
The girl’s story highlighted an unfolding horror in Venezuela, where years of hardship got abruptly worse after the power grid collapsed. On Monday, schools and businesses were closed, long lines of cars waited at the few gasoline stations with electricity and hospitals cared for many patients without power. Generators have alleviated conditions for some of the critically ill.
Late Monday, President Nicolas Maduro said on national television that progress had been made in restoring power in Venezuela. He also said two people who were allegedly trying to sabotage power facilities were captured and were providing information to authorities, though he gave no details.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido and his chief ally, the United States, say Maduro’s claims that the United States sabotaged the power grid with a “cyber-attack” are an attempt to divert attention from the government’s own failings.
There have been acts of kindness during Venezuela’s crisis: People whose food would rot in fridges without power donated it to a restaurant, which cooked it for distribution to charitable foundations and hospitals.
The blackouts have also hit the oil industry. The country hasn’t shipped $358 million in oil since the power failures started, and “the whole system is grinding to a halt,” said Russ Dallen, a Miami-based partner at the brokerage firm Caracas Capital Markets.
Two large tankers are sitting empty at the Jose offshore oil-loading dock, and at least 19 other ships are waiting their turns there, Dallen said.
Engineers have restored power in some parts of Venezuela, but it often goes out again. There have been a few protests in Caracas and reports of similar anti-government anger elsewhere. Guaido tweeted about reports of looting in some cities, but details were difficult to confirm.
Security forces in the city of Maracaibo dispersed “criminals” trying to take advantage of the power cuts, Mayor Willy Casanova told local media.
However, numerous videos posted on social media that purported to be from Maracaibo showed crowds roaming the streets and people running from looted, damaged buildings with no police in sight.
In Caracas, some people reported more sightings of “colectivos,” a term for armed groups allegedly operating on behalf of the state to intimidate opponents. While Maduro and other government officials said they were working to provide basic necessities, the mood in Caracas was desperate.Speech