This is what life is like in Venezuela when the lights go out

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CARACAS — If you’ve ever been inconvenienced by a power outage, imagine living in a complete blackout amid a food shortage, a medicine shortage, and a political power struggle that has pitted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s embattled government against the U.S.-backed opposition party.

That’s what many Venezuelans have been facing every evening since March 7, when a massive blackout plunged most of the country into darkness. And while power has has been almost fully restored, according to the country’s communications minister, Venezuelans are still coming to terms with a historic outage that left millions of people in the dark.

Some people went without electricity for more than 96 hours. Schools were closed, hospitals struggled to keep patients alive, and basic necessities like clean water and fresh food became even harder to come by.

“I handed out the food so it wouldn’t go to waste,” Luisa Changir, a 60-year-old Caracas resident, told VICE News on Monday. “Water is pumped with electricity, so we don’t have any now.”

Changir is a diabetic, and being without power also meant having to use insulin that had not been properly refrigerated.

“Things are looking quite bleak for us here,” she said.

Maduro’s government said a failure of the automatic control system at the Guri hydroelectric plant — the country’s main producer of electricity — was behind the power outage. He blamed the failure on his opponents, whom he accused of trying to “sabotage” him. But Guri’s facilities have long been overstretched, and blackouts are not new to Venezuela: In the state of Zulia, for example, people have been dealing with multiple daily power outages for more than a year.

“We don’t have any accurate information about when the service will return to normal,” Changir said.

Still, Maduro has reason to be worried if the blackouts continue. With his grip on power already threatened by an increasingly popular opposition candidate, prolonged national power outages could finally push the military, whose support is crucial to Maduro’s rule, against the embattled president.

This segment originally aired March 12, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

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