Power outage throws Venezuela’s capital into confusion

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The lights went out across much of Venezuela’s capital for several hours on Tuesday, forcing metro riders to make their way on foot, while shutting down businesses from restaurants to banks.

The outage that began mid-morning struck much of Caracas as well as parts of neighboring Miranda and Vargas states, officials said.

It was due to a downed power main in a remote national park, Communication Minister Jorge Rodriguez said on state TV. He added that crews had trouble reaching the damaged lines, and heavy rains further complicated repairs.

The power appeared to be restored to the majority of the affected areas by the afternoon, something President Nicolas Maduro later confirmed in a nationally televised address.

Once wealthy from massive oil reserves, Venezuela is in crisis after nearly two decades of socialist rule and a crumbling infrastructure that frequently leaves residents countrywide without lights and running water.

However, widespread power outages are rare in Caracas, the seat of government and the nation’s largest city.

In downtown Caracas on Tuesday, the outages sent crowds of people flooding out of their office buildings. It hampered cell communications and froze high-rise elevators.

Service at the country’s largest airport, Simon Bolivar International Airport, just outside of Caracas wasn’t delayed because emergency generators kicked on, officials said on Twitter.

The outage comes a day after the lights went off at a socialist party gathering as the deputy leader was live on television urging delegates to elect President Nicolas Maduro as leader of the country’s ruling political party.

Maduro later called the brief outage at the convention an act of “sabotage.”