Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela force to guard electrical system post-blackout

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionTraffic lights, coffee vendors and cash machines were all hit by the blackout, as Ian Booth reports

The Venezuelan government has announced the creation of a security unit to defend the country's electrical system, a day after a blackout that affected 70% of the country.

Some rural areas are still experiencing power outages, reports say.

Energy minister Jesse Chacon apologised for the blackouts and congratulated Venezuelans for their calm despite the opposition's "destabilising efforts".

Critics say the blackouts are due to a lack of investment in infrastructure.

Mr Chacon said a metal grille had been tampered with and fell on electrical lines, causing a short circuit.

President Nicolas Maduro said the government would carry out an investigation, and a new security unit would be created to protect the electrical system from sabotage attempts.

Officials say the system has been fully restored everywhere, but accounts on the social network Twitter suggest that the blackouts lasted much longer outside the capital, Caracas, reports Irene Caselli in Caracas.

One woman has told the Associated Press news agency she did not believe "this tale about sabotage".

"We all know who is to blame,'' said Adriana Montoya, a housewife who said she was stuck for hours in traffic jams that formed as traffic lights went dark in Caracas, which lost power for five hours on Tuesday.

The blackout also partially disrupted the underground transport system, with people being stuck in trains in tunnels before being evacuated to safety.

Thousands of workers were sent home.

Mr Maduro blamed the opposition for "sabotage" to power transmission lines.

President Maduro did not give any evidence to support the accusation, but said he had instructed the military "to protect the entire country".

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said the government was trying to divert public attention from the country's problems by concocting a conspiracy theory.

More on this story