Hundreds of shops looted in Venezuela blackout: traders

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 14 2019 08:33 AM

Workers wait inside a dark mall during a power outage in Maracaibo, Venezuela on May 3, 2018. Amid blackouts, skyrocketing prices, shortage of food, medicine and transportation, Venezuelans go to elections next May 20 anguished to survive one of the worst crisis in the oil country. Agence France-Presse

CARACAS - More than 500 shops were looted in Venezuela's western city of Maracaibo during a vast nationwide blackout that struck last week and lasted for days, a retailers' association said Wednesday.

The Consecomercio association called on beleaguered security forces to reimpose order in Maracaibo and its surrounds.

In a statement, it said it lamented the "impunity with which mobs, taking advantage of the electricity crisis... destroyed installations" in Maracaibo's main shopping center and in "500 other establishments."

The blackout, which cut power to 21 of Venezuela's 23 states last Thursday, was still going in western parts of the country.

Electricity had mostly been restored to the capital Caracas and other regions, but drinking water supplies remained disrupted, requiring water to be trucked in.

The reason for the unprecedented power cut has not been determined.

President Nicolas Maduro blamed it on "sabotage" by the United States and the opposition.

Opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido -- who is backed by the US and 50 other countries -- told supporters corruption and mismanagement by Maduro's "dictatorship" was the root cause.

Maracaibo suffered the worst of the looting, but other places, including Caracas, registered some pillaging of shops too.

The head of Consecomercio, Felipe Capozzolo, urged authorities to act, stressing on Twitter that looting could undermine retailers' stockage and distribution of food and basic goods that have become increasingly scarce under Venezuela's economic crisis.

The blackout made matters worse by cutting power to refrigerators and freezers, ruining produce inside.

According to economic analysis firm Ecoanalitica, the blackout cost Venezuela $875 million.

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