China Offers To Help Venezuela Restore Electricity

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. 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.’ 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. 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 Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., or PDVSA . Two storage tanks exploded at the Petro San Felix heavy-crude upgrading project on Wednesday, sources said.

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