Venezuela Arrests Five for ‘Sabotage’ After Nationwide Blackouts

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan authorities have arrested five people and are seeking to extradite three more for “electric sabotage” that they blame for rolling blackouts over the past month.

The government has identified 19 saboteurs responsible for power cuts beginning March 7, when much of the nation was plunged into darkness for nearly a week, Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said in a televised address Tuesday. Experts have said the outages are caused by neglected maintenance, and Rodriguez provided no proof for his assertions that they were intentional.

President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist regime alleges that two “cybernetic attacks” paralyzed Venezuela’s main hydroelectric dam last month. Rodriguez said distribution systems have since experienced 45 “minor attacks” that include direct sabotage of infrastructure and brush fires set to damage power lines. Rodriguez said the government was close to “permanently stabilizing electricity service.”

“This has been the most brutal and criminal attack against a population,” Rodriguez said, adding that half of Venezuela’s electric substations had been attacked over the past two years. “The Maduro government is facing terrorists and defeating them.”

The nation will ask Interpol to help find suspects in Colombia, Spain and the U.S., he said.

Engineers and electricity analysts say Venezuela’s chronic power outages are the result of years of poor upkeep and rampant corruption among state workers and contractors. Last month, Maduro announced a power-rationing plan that would affect the capital and other major cities as the government repairs the grid.

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