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Venezuelan food supplier reports looting during blackouts

Posted at 4:19 PM, Mar 13, 2019

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's largest private food supplier says massive looting and vandalism occurred at four facilities in the city of Maracaibo during nationwide power outages, complicating efforts to distribute food and drinks to people in the area.

Empresas Polar said Tuesday that a distribution center and a production plant for Pepsi-Cola Venezuela were hit during unrest after blackouts started a week ago. So were a pasta plant and a beer distributor. It reported the loss of large quantities of food, water and other drinks, vehicles, computers, office furniture and other items.

There were no reports of looting in Maracaibo on Wednesday as people formed long lines outside shops that hadn't been damaged and were selling food.

Venezuelan authorities said they have made significant process in restoring electricity, though some areas remain without power.

Late Tuesday, authorities released a journalist and activist who had been detained after a senior official accused him of involvement in efforts to sabotage Venezuela's power grid. Luis Carlos Diaz, who was taken into custody after leaving Union Radio station on Monday, said there was a legal process against him and that he could not comment.

Venezuela's chief prosecutor has said opposition leader Juan Guaido is also being investigated for allegedly causing the blackouts, which inflicted misery on millions of people already struggling with a lack of basic necessities.

Guaido, who declared himself interim president in late January, blamed corruption and incompetence for the power outages. The United States and about 50 other countries support his campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro and hold elections. Maduro, re-elected in a disputed vote last year, says the U.S. is plotting a coup in Venezuela.