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    Supporters of Juan Guaido, self-proclaimed Interim President of Venezuela, take part in a rally, in Caracas, Venezuela

    Guaido Mobilizes ‘Thousands’ for ‘Operation Freedom’ Under Power Outages Pretext

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    The Venezuelan opposition leader announced protests based on power outages earlier this week on Twitter.

    Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela, has reportedly organized "thousands" of protesters at some 100 rally points across the nation, Efecto Cocuyo reported Saturday.

    Guaido posted a tweet earlier this week calling for mass protests on 30 March as a preparation for the 6 April active phase of what he dubbed "tactical actions" of his Operation Freedom, aimed at ousting the current president, Nicolas Maduro.

    The opposition leader, who gives the impression of linking his protests to power outages that have riddled Venezuela in March, once again used the electrical grid as a cornerstone for a Saturday rally at Los Teques, a city near Caracas.

    ​"This is a regime that wants to plunge us into darkness, wants our hearts to be filled with darkness and fear. It is evident who the culprit of the blackout is," Guaido said, adding that "we all know who is responsible for the crisis and tragedy that Venezuela suffers today."

    Guaido staged protests in Caracas as the capital struggled without power. After power in Caracas was restored, however, he shifted his attention to the outskirts, where the electrical grid remains unstable.

    He toured Venezuelan states accompanied by other opposition lawmakers organizing "Aid and Freedom" committees across the South American nation that are meant to act as organizing cells for protesters.

    Guaido continues to blame Maduro for the outages. In the meantime, Maduro suggested that the accident at the Guri hydroelectric dam, which powers most of urban Venezuela, was the result of well-prepared sabotage involving a US cyberattack. The embattled Venezuelan leader also claimed that a physical attack on the power station's transformers was carried out by a sniper with perfect knowledge of the dam's weak spots.

    "They shot [at the electrical system] with a long distance rifle, whoever ordered the attack knew what they were doing. This is a total war," Maduro declared on 28 March, cited by the Orinoco Tribune.

    Maduro added that power in Venezuela has now been restored to some 85 percent of the country.

    The alleged attack on the Guri hydropower dam occured on 7 March, following a failed attempt by the opposition to frame Maduro for the destruction of US humanitarian aid at the Colombian border in February. On 23 February, Maduro presented video clips showing opposition supporters burning containers of aid.

    The attack on the dam was followed by a week-long blackout that plunged most of Venezuela's states into darkness. On 25 March, an estimated 14-16 states saw another blackout that lasted for some three days.

    Despite opposition efforts and US-imposed sanctions on oil trade, Maduro continues to enjoy the loyalty of the nation's military as well as diplomatic support from Russia, China and a number of other nations.

    As Sputnik reported earlier, the US State Department demanded that world oil trading companies cut trade ties with Venezuela, despite not being subject to sanctions.

    The US reportedly seeks to cut shipments of specific oil products to Venezuela which Caracas uses to dilute its crude output to make it suitable for export — as a means of attacking the nation's primary source of income, even as it continues to struggle with a deep and ongoing economic and social crisis.

    Earlier this week, the US national security advisor, John Bolton, said that the Trump administration is mulling the deportation of an estimated 70,000 Venezuelans back to their home country, but wants to "focus first on ensuring there is a transition in the government of the country," cited by Reuters.

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    Political Crisis in Venezuela (552)

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    blackout, power outage, mass protests, Juan Guaido, Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela
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