Maduro says Venezuela ready to receive international aid

The president agrees to allow aid after meeting with the Red Cross chief as new round of blackouts hit the country.

    Maduro says Venezuela ready to receive international aid
    Nearly a quarter of the 30 million Venezuelans need urgent help, according to the UN [Steven Grattan/Al Jazeera]

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said his country was ready to receive international aid following a meeting with the Red Cross chief, as the Latin American nation plunged into a new round of blackouts.

    "We confirm our readiness to establish cooperation mechanisms for international assistance and support," Maduro said on Twitter on Tuesday.

    The president, who denies that the current situation in Venezuela can be described as a humanitarian crisis, reiterated after the meeting that collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) should respect "the Venezuelan legal order."

    An ICRC delegation led by its president Peter Maurer has been in the South American country since Saturday and is due to finish its visit on Wednesday.

    The ICRC said last Friday in a statement it was "concerned by the serious impact that the current situation has on Venezuelans, especially those who do not have access to basic services."

    Meanwhile, a new power cut hit large parts of Venezuela, including the capital, Caracas, forcing many to spend another night in the dark on Tuesday.

    "These blackouts have hit me hard, I'm not leaving the country now because I am about to finalise my major, and I don't want to give up," Yolanda Rodriguez, 20, said. 

    "But this is exhausting."

    Electricity shortage

    The electricity shortage - the biggest in a week - hit a large section of the capital at 11:30pm (3:30 GMT) with social media posts from residents across the country suggesting significant areas in at least 20 of the 23 states of Venezuela were also affected.

    An hour after the lights went out, some areas of the capital regained power. No reason for the blackout was immediately given by the government or the state electricity company Corpoelec.

    "These situations of constant blackouts and water shortages have been very difficult for me," Maria Angel Velazquez, 22, told Al Jazeera.

    "This is a big burden that we are all carrying, but that we can't share with others because we all are experiencing the same thing, and we don't want to burden others with our situation," she added. 

    Opposition leader Juan Guaido had previously called for protests against public service failures to be held Wednesday.

    "Everyone to the streets, let's start the final phase of the end of the usurpation!" Guaido wrote on Twitter.

    Venezuela has been plunged into a deep political crisis, with Guaido proclaiming himself acting president in January.

    He has since been recognised by more than 50 countries, including the US, which wants Maduro to step down.

    The company set up to confront the crisis "is working to reestablish the service", reported the country's state TV channel VTV.

    With its crude exports collapsing and international sanctions piling up, Venezuela's oil economy has crumbled. Malnutrition and disease are on the rise as living conditions plummet.

    Maduro blames the country's problems on US sanctions, while Guaido says they are down to corruption and poor governance.

    According to the United Nations, nearly a quarter of the 30 million Venezuelans need urgent help.

    A UN report said 3.7 million people are malnourished, and at least 22 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition.

    A Security Council meeting called by Washington is set to be held Wednesday to discuss the current crisis.

    With additional reporting by Elizabeth Melimopoulos in Caracas.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies