A sudden massive blackout on Sept. 3 affected 15 of Venezuela’s 23 states, affecting 70% of the national territory and causing traffic chaos as traffic lights went out. The Electrical Energy Ministry said one of the main transmission lines on the national grid had failed. President Nicolás Maduro immediately blamed sabotage, saying “all signs indicate that the extreme right has implemented its plan to carry out an Electrical Coup [Golpe Eléctrico] against the nation.” The blackout struck at peak hours in Caracas, around 1 PM local time, and also affected cities Maracay, Maracaibo and Barcelona. The nation’s oil refineries, which are powered by a separate grid, were not affected. Venezuela has repeatedly experienced rolling blackouts in recent years. In 2010, then-president Hugo Chávez signed a decree declaring an “electricity emergency” to address the problem.
Venezuelan authorities said last week that a plot on Maduro’s life had been foiled, arresting two suspects identified as hired hit-men. Like his mentor Chávez, Maduro has repeatedly charged that the opposition was plotting to kill him in league with foreign governments. (BBC News, MercoSur, La Verdad, Maracaibo, Sept. 3)
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Venezuela expels US diplomats
Venezuela announced Sept. 30 that it is expelling three US diplomats, who are accused of involvement in sabotaging the power grid. President Nicolas Maduro said the diplomats have 48 hours to leave the country, adding for emphasis “Yankees, go home!” The US and Venezuela have been without ambassadors in each other’s capitals since 2010. The expelled diplomats have been named as charge d’affaires Kelly Keiderling and the most senior US diplomat in Caracas, David Moo, and Elizabeth Hoffman. “We completely reject the Venezuelan government’s allegations of US government involvement in any type of conspiracy to destabilize the Venezuela government,” the embassy said in a statement. (BBC News, Sept. 30)