Tension mounts in Venezuela over rival protests

Mr Guaido told thousands of supporters he would embark on a tour of the country before leading a nationwide march on the capital

The authorities, on the other side, said the power cuts were caused by "sabotage" of country's biggest hydroelectric power plant.

Venezuelan opposition protesters have converged on a main avenue in Caracas and other parts of the country, venting their anger over a nationwide blackout, shortages of basic necessities and the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

"Sabotage is stealing money from Venezuelans". "No food. No medicine. Sabotage is stealing elections", Guaido said on Twitter.

Mr Guaidó, who leads the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim president on 23 January and has been at loggerheads with President Maduro ever since.

Following Mr Maduro's decision to close the borders to keep out humanitarian aid for his people, the country was completely isolated on Friday.

"In the days ahead ... the United States will announce even stronger sanctions on the regime's corrupt financial networks", Pence said. Venezuela can still contest the award. Power was gradually being restored to large areas of Caracas on Friday afternoon, as well as parts of Miranda state and Vargas, which contains the country's worldwide airport and main port.

Will the blackout affect protests?

The Information Ministry did not reply to a request for comment.

Scores of people walked through the streets of the capital early in the morning due to the closure of the metro, while others took the few buses that were running. "All the more reason to give them TPS".

In the upscale Caracas neighbourhood of Los Palos Grandes, several hundred people gathered for a rally where Guaido was expected to speak. "I want a normal country".

"This is the second day I've spent here and now there is no light", said Guerra.

Trump's Venezuela Envoy Vows Sanctions On Banks Backing Nicolas Maduro

A supporter of Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido, speaks to National Bolivarian Police officers during a demo in Caracas on March 9, 2019.

The opposition has set protests for Saturday in the capital as it seeks to maintain pressure on Maduro to step down.

"The US empire once again underestimates the conscience and determination of Venezuela's people", tweeted Maduro, who has not been seen in public since the blackout began late Thursday afternoon.

Numerous more than 3.4 million Venezuelans who have fled thus far left with valuable skills- including energy expertise - and the government's allegations of a saboteurs' plot was met with skepticism by many in Caracas.

Abrams, a neoconservative who has long advocated an activist US role in the world, said he had been asking European banks to take steps to shield individual Venezuelans' assets from Maduro's government.

The agency says the blackout stems from an attack on the Guri power plant and that officials are working to restore service.

State-owned electricity operator CORPOELEC blamed the outage as part of a "power war" against the nation on Twitter.

He added that shortages of parts as well as a lack of skilled technicians, many of whom have fled the country, will complicate any efforts to fix any damage. Generators at the JM de Rios children's hospital in downtown Caracas failed to kick in when the blackout hit, said Gilbert Altuvez, whose eight-year old son is among the patients. Critics say they have been getting worse since the nationalisation of the power grid in 2007.

As the blackout wore on, Venezuelans already struggling to put food on the table anxious the little they have would get spoiled in fridges without power.

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