(CARACAS) Cities across Venezuela are increasingly agitated, as government offices closed their doors for the rest of the week in the face of a worsening energy crisis that is causing daily blackouts.
Venezuela is among the world’s most violent countries, and crime generally spikes here when the lights go out.
Looting and fiery protests starting spreading Wednesday in Caracas, as hundreds of angry voters lined up to sign a petition beginning the process of recalling the deeply unpopular President Nicolas Maduro.
The socialist administration began imposing a four-hour daily blackout around the country this week to save electricity. Then, Maduro announced that millions of officials will now work only Mondays and Tuesdays, taking the rest of the week off in a bid to save electricity.
More than 100 people were arrested in the western city of Maracaibo for looting that damaged dozens of businesses, according to local governor Francisco Arias, who supports the Maduro government.
Maduro condemned the night of protests, and said his political enemies were trying to sow chaos and sabotage him.
“The crazy right wing doesn’t understand that in hard times, a family has to band together,” he said. “They’re trying to create a violent situation.”
Maduro warned that the water level behind the nation’s largest dam has fallen to near its minimum operating level because of a severe drought. If it gets much lower, the whole nation could be plunged into darkness.
Experts say lack of planning and maintenance is to blame as much as the weather.
Caracas is being spared from the rolling blackouts and has not seen violent protests. Some Venezuelans complain that the country is starting to resemble the dystopian series “The Hunger Games,” in which districts suffer for the benefit of a heartless capital city.
As people become more desperate in outlying states, opposition politicians in Caracas are appealing for calm after scoring a small victory that will allow them to begin an effort to recall Maduro.