Large parts of Venezuela were blacked out last night, as a widespread power outage crept across the South American country. The outage affected homes, office buildings and even the presidential palace in the capital city of Caracas, as well as nine of Venezuela's 23 states.
Electricity Minister Jesse Chacon said a major line that connects the country's central and western parts had failed, causing the blackout in the early afternoon. Electricity still had not been fully restored as night fell.
Subway systems and train schedules were suspended around the country, stranding people trying to get home from work.
Cellular networks were jammed for hours as people tried to cope with the chaos. In Caracas, the sidewalks were filled with pedestrians, forcing people to walk in the streets. While some middle class neighborhoods were without power after nightfall, the city's center experienced only intermittent outages. The problems extended to Maracaibo, Venezuela's second city, and the industrial center of Valencia.
In 2007, former socialist leader Hugo Chavez nationalized Venezuela's power sector as part of a broad wave of state takeovers. The socialist country suffered major blackouts in both 2012 and 2013 as well. Current President Nicholas Maduro weathered three months of often violent opposition demonstrations earlier this year, demanding his resignation that were in part motivated by complaints over shoddy public services. Experts attributed the latest outage to government incompetence and a deteriorating infrastructure, which has long been suffering from deferred maintenance. The administration blamed the power outages on sabotage, promising a investigation.