People walk on a dark street during a power outage in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, March 7, 2019. A power outage left much of Venezuela in the dark early Thursday evening in what appeared to be one of the largest blackouts yet in a country where power failures have become increasingly common.(AP)

 

On Thursday evening, just as commuters were making their way home from work, 22 out of 23 Venezuelan states — including the capital of Caracas — went dark as a massive power outage gripped the embattled nation.

Socialist President Nicolas Maduro’s administration immediately blamed “right-wing extremists,” saying the “electrical war” is the latest salvo perpetrated by the U.S. as their support for interim president Juan Guaido grows.

Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez even went so far as to directly blame U.S. Senator Marco Rubio for the outage, which is more likely caused by crumbling infrastructure and what Rubio calls stolen utility maintenance funds.

Rodriguez urged people to be patient and promised to restore power within the hours of the blackout. Yet the blackout continued into early Friday morning, with Venezuelans opening their windows and banging pots and pans in the dark as a protest against the government, while some also cursed at Maduro.

The outage comes amid political turmoil in Venezuela, with Maduro facing a challenge for legitimacy from opposition leader Juan Guaido, the head of congress who was recognized as the legitimate leader of the country by the U.S. and about 50 countries around the world.

Guaido attacked the socialist regime for the blackout on social media.

“How do you tell a mom who needs to cook, an ill person who depends on a machine, a worker who should be laboring that we are in a powerful country without electricity?” he wrote, using the hashtag #SinLuz, meaning without light. “Venezuela is clear that the light will return with the end of usurpation.”

Venezuela’s electrical system was reportedly one of the more advanced in Latin America but has suffered following the country’s financial woes due to the fact that utility bills are heavily subsidized by the government, a consequence of a Socialist, centrally planned economic structure.

The nation — which has vast reserves of oil and was once one of the wealthiest in South America — has also struggled with food and medicine shortages, a situation brought to light with the dispute over Maduro’s questionable election last year and Guaido’s insistence that the nation’s constitution gives him interim leadership status.

As of 1:30 pm Friday, power was being restored to some parts of Venezuela as news broke the U.S. had extended the time period for U.S. companies to wrap up business with Venezuela’s state-run oil company.