Millions of Venezuelans were left without running water 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 on Sunday, 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.
Maduro replaced his electricity minister on Monday in a move to address a series of blackouts plaguing the country. In an address on state television, Maduro said he named Igor Gavidia, a 65-year-old electrical engineer who was previously president of state power generator Electrificacion del Caroni, to replace Electricity Minister Luis Motta. "Some changes are needed to strengthen, take responsibility for, and develop the new phase of this plan," Maduro said.
Oil-rich Venezuela was rocked by a debilitating blackout on March 7, which dragged on for nearly a week in some parts of the country. Power has been intermittent since another blackout on March 25, and growing water shortages have aggravated the sense of crisis in a country where food and medicine are already scarce with an economy racked by hyperinflation.
The outage comes as Venezuela is in the throes of a political struggle between Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, the head of congress who declared himself the nation's rightful president in January and is recognized by the United States and a number of other countries. The Maduro government has charged that a U.S.-led war on the electric power supply was underway, while describing Guaido as a "clown" and "puppet."