Caracas: Thousands of politically divided Venezuelans took to the streets of Caracas to protest the power outages, with the opposition accusing the government for the blackouts and the Chavistas blaming imperialism and opposition leaders.
The demonstrations went off peacefully on Saturday until police dispersed a couple of anti-government demonstrations with tear gas in downtown Caracas, where dozens of citizens were demanding the restoration of the electric service, cut off since Friday in several parts of the country, Efe news reported.
Critics of the Nicolas Maduro government organised dozens of protests after they were called to do so by opposition leader Juan Guaido, acknowledged as interim president of Venezuela by some 60 countries, as a way to denounce the electricity cuts that since March 7 have paralyzed the country for some 10 days.
Guaido, speaker of the National Assembly legislature, attended three of those activities on the outskirts of Caracas, and took advantage of those gatherings to call on Venezuelans to “organise a disturbance” every time there are cuts in the electric service and the water supply, after a week of constant blackouts nationwide.
“We must organise a disturbance every time we need to demand our rights, enough of this fooling around,” he said.
He also called for people to come together to express their discontent with the Nicolas Maduro government, which he again blamed for the power supply problems and the desperate situation of the country’s entire economy, and said the movement he leads is far from having a power outage.
“Some people go around saying that our movement has already shut down, don’t laugh. The only thing that has shut down is a regime that has left the streets all over the country in darkness,” said the politician, who has promised to work to end what he believes is Maduro’s usurpation of the presidency.
Guaido said that there are “hundreds of places where people are demanding their rights,” nationwide.
“We’re not asking for patience here, just the opposite, we’re asking for organisation and action right now,” he said.
The demonstrations by opposition groups came simultaneously with a Chavista march through the streets of Caracas in which thousands took part.
Maduro’s followers marched from downtown and the west side of the capital wearing the usual red colour of the so-called Bolivarian Revolution in a festive atmosphere that included dancing and the distribution of drinking water in some cases.
The government called for demonstrations to express support for President Maduro and to condemn the sabotage of the electric system that it blames on the opposition and the US government.
Maduro did not attend the principal event that was led by Chavista leaders (supporters of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez) and was closed by the head of the Venezuelan Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, considered the No 2 of Chavismo, and who boasted that the opposition has been unable to oust the government from power.
“Today more than ever we must be on the alert, today more than ever we must be united as brothers,” Cabello said.
The leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) asked the Chavistas to look for those who are “confused.”
“Let’s look for the people who are confused, for those who go around saying that it’s easier to talk with people on the right…and that the best thing would be to hold elections to restore calm. Well, elections were held here on May 20 and Nicolas Maduro won,” he said.
Shortly before saying that, Cabello himself told reporters that “with folks of the opposition there are meetings every day. Of course! Because not all sectors of the opposition are crazy and a lot of them, even in their craziness, are divided from those same groups, and they also say they’d like to talk.”
Cabello also addressed the blackouts and said that those who are behind them are enemies of the people.
“Whoever calls for the people to be killed, whoever calls for people to be massacred, whoever orders electricity cuts…in a time of conflict, that individual is the enemy of the people, and the people know what they have to do,” he said.