Internet a crucial Venezuela battleground

February 22, 2014 • Business

FILE – In this Sept. 10, 2012 file photo, supporters of opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles take photos with their smart phones as he campaigns in Caracas, Venezuela. The battle for Venezuela is being fought as much online as in the streets, with opposition activists flooding social media with video of security force aggression, Internet service reported cut to most of a conflict-rattled western state and the government blocking select websites. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano, File)

SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela (AP) — The battle for Venezuela is being fought as vigorously online as in the streets, with Internet service cut off to a strife-torn university city and the government blocking selected websites and a “walkie-talkie” service widely used by protesters.

Internet connectivity was gradually restored to San Cristobal, capital of the western border state of Tachira, Friday morning after an outage of more than 30 hours that also affected smartphones.

The tense streets smelled like burned trash after another night in which police firing tear gas broke up protests as they had Wednesday night when Internet service was cut.

Public transit was not operating, many street lights were dark and low-flying air force jets buzzed the city.

“It’s an abuse!” Jeffrey Guerrero, a flour wholesaler, complained before Internet service was restored. “We’ve had to find out what’s happening in our city from others.” He held up his iPhone to show how his Twitter service had halted.

The socialist government later blamed “accidents” and “vandalism” by right-wing groups for the outage.

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