(Adds details from street, electricity minister comments,
By Brian Ellsworth and Patricia Velez
CARACAS, June 27 A blackout cut power to much of
Venezuela on Friday, snarling traffic in the capital Caracas and
other major cities as authorities scrambled to restore
electricity after the outage, which twice interrupted a
Pedestrians streamed into the streets of Caracas as the
blackout shuttered the underground metro trains and left
frustrated drivers honking in the chaos without stoplights.
Government ministers in the late afternoon said they
expected power would be restored shortly. It was the second
nationwide major electricity outage in less than a year.
"How am I going to get to my house? By the grace of God,"
said Pedro Mayora, 58, an accountant who was waiting outside the
Metro to see how he would reach his home on the poor west end of
Workers stood in groups outside evacuated buildings, some
complaining of difficulty in communicating over congested
cellular phone lines.
An outage at a power station in the center of the country
led to other generation centers going offline, halting service
in that region and in the Andes region in the west, Electricity
Minister Jesse Chacon told state television.
The problems extended to Maracaibo, Venezuela's second city,
and the industrial center of Valencia.
The OPEC nation has suffered an increasing number of power
outages in recent years, which critics have attributed to low
electricity tariffs and limited state investment following the
2007 nationalization of the power sector.
Television screens froze for several seconds as Maduro was
speaking during a broadcast of the awards ceremony for a
national journalism prize. The words "It looks like the power
went out" were audible in the background.
"Traffic normally flows fine, but with the power out it's
complete chaos," said Carlos Pena, 58, a fuel station worker.
A representative of state oil company PDVSA said there were
no reports of the oil industry being affected.
President Nicolas Maduro in December blamed a similar power
outage on opposition saboteurs who attacked a transmission line
with a firearm.
Critics call the power problems a symptom of 15 years of
socialist policies that have left the country without a steady
supply of energy despite having the world's largest oil
Late socialist leader Hugo Chavez in 2007 nationalized the
country's power sector as part of a broad wave of state
Maduro this year weathered three months of often violent
opposition demonstrations demanding his resignation that were in
part motivated by complaints over shoddy public services. He
said the protests were a U.S.-backed attempt to overthrow him.
(Reporting by Caracas newsroom; Editing by James Dalgleish and