People spill out into an avenue after a power outage in Caracas, Venezuela, March 7, 2019. A power outage left much of Venezuela in the dark early Thursday evening.
People spill out into an avenue after a power outage in Caracas, Venezuela, March 7, 2019. A power outage left much of Venezuela in the dark early Thursday evening.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - A power outage left much of Venezuela in the dark early Thursday evening in what appeared to be one of the largest blackouts yet in a country where power failures have become increasingly common.

Crowds of commuters in capital city Caracas were walking home after metro service ground to a halt and traffic snarled as cars struggled to navigate intersections where stoplights were out.

State-owned electricity operator Corpoelec blamed the outage on an “attack” on the Guri Dam, one of the world's largest hydroelectric projects and the cornerstone of Venezuela's electrical grid.

“We've been targeted again in the power war,” Maj. Gen. Luis Motta, President Nicolas Maduro's minister of electrical power, said in remarks aired on state television.

Pro-government officials frequently blame outages on Venezuela's opposition, accusing them of attacking power substations with Molotov cocktails, though rarely providing evidence. 

Motta did not indicate how much of the nation is engulfed in the outage, though local media reported that nearly all of Venezuela was experiencing a blackout. Motto said it would take “approximately three hours” for service to be restored, though patience was already running thin Thursday evening.

In one Caracas neighborhood, residents threw up their windows and began banging on pot and pans in a sign of protest while others shouted out expletives and Maduro's name.

The outage comes as Venezuela is in the throes of a power struggle between Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized by about 50 nations as Venezuela's rightful president. The opposition is blaming Maduro for the country's soaring hyperinflation, food and medical shortages, while the embattled leader accuses Guaido of conspiring with the Trump administration to overthrow him from power.

Venezuela's electrical system was once the envy of Latin America but it has fallen into a state of disrepair amid years of poor maintenance and mismanagement. High-ranking officials have been accused in U.S. court proceedings of looting investments earmarked for the electrical system.

The government keeps home power bills exceptionally low — just a couple dollars a month — relying heavily on subsidies.