CARACAS: Millions of Venezuelans were left without running water Monday amid a series of massive blackouts, forcing President Nicolas Maduro to announce electricity rationing and school closures as the government struggles to cope with a deepening economic crisis.
Maduro announced 30 days of power rationing, after his government said it was shortening the work day and keeping schools closed due to blackouts.
The measures are a stark admission by the government – which blamed repeated power outages in March on sabotage – that there is not enough electricity to go around, and that the power crisis is here to stay.
Angry Venezuelans meanwhile took to the streets of Caracas to protest the power cuts and water shortages.
“We have small children and we aren’t able to give them a drop of water to drink,” said Caracas resident Maria Rodriguez.
With no electricity, pumping stations can’t work, so water service is limited.
Street lights and traffic lights go dark, pumps at fuel stations stand idle, and cell phone and internet service is non-existent.
But people try to find it water wherever they can: from springs, leaky pipes, gutters, government-provided tankers, and the little that flows through the Guiare River in Caracas.
“We fill up from a well near here but we don’t know if its drinkable. But we’re using it,” said Erimar Vale, who lives in the capital. Angel Velazquez said he bathed at work because he did not have water at home.
The blackouts have worsened already dire economic and living conditions in the country, which sits on the world’s largest proven oil reserves.
The power failures have accompanied a political showdown between Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized as interim president by the United States and more than 50 other countries.