China has offered to help Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro get the lights back on in the country’s second largest city following ‘madness’ of its worst ever blackout.
The Venezuelan government had scrambled on Wednesday to return power to the Western city of Jose, following heavy looting. With China offering to provide help and technical support to restore electricity, backing Maduro’s assertion that the problem was the result of sabotage.
Shocking pictures show empty stores where even shop signs have been looted – to empty warehouses with little left inside.
Power had returned to many parts of the country after a nationwide outage last week, with Jose, which is crucial for oil exports, resuming operations.
The government said people could return to work on Thursday, following several consecutive public holidays due to the lack of electricity. Across the city looters smashed shop windows and made off with goods across 300 businesses along the border with Colombia.
General view inside a supermarkert looted during the massive blackout that has paralyzed Venezuela for six days, in Maracaibo
People carry containers to fill with water at Avila National Park during rolling blackouts which has cut many off from running water in Caracas
The hallway of a mall is trashed after stores stand empty one day after it was looted in Maracaibo on Wednesday
In Maracaibo, once known for flashy displays of oil wealth, people bought food at the few business that remained open. Gasoline lines stretched for blocks.
‘In my house I have one kilo of rice and one kilo of lentils,’ said Jose Navas, 53, a security guard. ‘That’s what I’ll eat today. What will I eat tomorrow? This is really bad.’
In a statement, the Zulia chapter of business organization Fedecamaras said : ‘About 100 people came into the store and took all the food, the point of sale terminals,’ said Maria Centeno, 29, the owner of a store selling food and furniture that was looted on Sunday.
‘They were people from the community. The police came by and they told me to sort it out myself.’
View inside a store on the border state of Zulia. Crates can be seen lying empty in a store where a sign reads ‘Festival del Mar’, which celebrates all things of the sea
The inside of a looted shop where signs for soft drinks still remain despite the good of the store having been completed looted
Following the wave of pillaging on Sunday, many businesses sold off their remaining merchandise on the cheap for fear of more looting.
The country’s top food company, Empresas Polar, said four facilities in Maracaibo, Venezuela’s biggest city after Caracas, had been sacked this week, with looters making off with water, soft drinks and pasta.
The supplier reported the loss of large quantities of food, water and other drinks, vehicles, computers, office furniture and other items.
During the power outage people were also pictured carrying containers to fill with water at Avila National Park during the rolling blackouts which has cut many off from running water in Caracas.
Rubbish and empty boxes and carts lay on the floor in an empty wholesalers which was looted during the blackout
The blackouts have marked another harsh blow to a country paralysed by turmoil as the power struggle between President Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido stretched into its second month.
Maduro’s critics have insisted that rampant corruption and a decade of incompetent management by state authorities were to blame for the blackout.
A technical problem with transmission lines linking the Guri hydroelectric plant in southeastern Venezuela to the national power grid likely caused the blackout, former energy company officials and local engineers have told Reuters.
Despite the resumption of shipments from Jose, Venezuela’s oil industry is struggling with the impact of U.S. sanctions on state oil company PetrÃ³leos de Venezuela, S.A., or PDVSA . Two storage tanks exploded at the Petro San Felix heavy-crude upgrading project on Wednesday, sources said.
Even the signs in the wholesale supermarket had been looted as disdain grows among local people following the country’s political turmoil
A man fills containers with water flowing down from the Wuaraira Repano mountain, also called “El Avila”, in Caracas on March 13 after the blackout left millions without running water
With Maduro still in control of state functions and retaining the loyalty of the armed forces, Norway’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday it would be prepared to act as a mediator or facilitator of talks between the government and opposition.
‘We are in contact with both sides in Venezuela and can contribute if they so wish,’ said a Norwegian foreign ministry spokeswoman.
The Nordic nation, which has not recognized Guaido as the president, has a long history of brokering peace processes worldwide, most recently when it helped seal a 2016 deal between the government of Colombia and Marxist FARC rebels.
Juan Guaido (pictured above) in January invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaking during a broadcast about the blackouts that affect the country in Caracas, Venezuela
But dialogue with Maduro is a nonstarter for many opponents, who accuse him of using previous negotiations to buy time and divide the opposition.
‘Our position is the same: the conditions are not ripe for mediation or dialogue,’ said opposition legislator Fernando Sucre, adding that there had not been talks with Norway. ‘The agony of the Venezuelan people has increased because of the electricity disaster, and it cannot keep being extended.’
Venezuela, which has long suffered from high crime rates and shortages of basic goods, plunged into a deep political crisis in January when Juan Guaido, head of the opposition-controlled congress, invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was not legitimate.
The move has put Venezuela at the heart of a geopolitical tussle, with the United States leading most Western nations in recognizing Guaido as the legitimate head of state, while Russia, China and others support Maduro.
The United States is preparing to withdraw its remaining diplomats from Venezuela, an effort that will not involve the U.S. military, after Maduro on Tuesday ordered them to leave within 72 hours.
The checkout at the wholesalers is completed empty. A priority lane sign is shown (left) which was left behind by the looters
The C.C Ferre Mall where the entrance stands burned and damaged after residents looted and vandalised the property