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Power-rationing in Venezuela

April 26, 2016

Venezuelans have been asked to stop blow-drying their hair and ironing clothes, among other measures, to save electricity. The country is suffering from a power crisis, but there is disagreement over what caused it.

Image: Reuters/M. Bello

Officials imposed a daily four-hour blackout in eight states on Monday local time. Except for the capital Caracas and the city of Vargas, the measures would last for 40 days, AFP news agency reported. President Nicolas Maduro's latest move was a last-minute attempt to save energy until water levels stabilized at the Guri Dam, which provides for most of Venezuela's energy.

Other measures to save power included reducing the workday for ministries and state companies and adding new national holidays. Shops and hotels were also asked to reduce electricity consumption. Last week, officials shifted the country's time zone forward by 30 minutes to save power.

"We're performing miracles to maintain the quality of life, but I ask for miracles that you compatriots perform at home," Maduro said in a televised address last week. He also urged women to stop blow drying their hair and stop ironing their clothes to save electricity.

Venezuela Medikamentemangel Proteste
Venezuela's citizens protest against an acute shortage of medicinesImage: Reuters/M. Bello

Economic crisis could worsen

Maduro's government blames the power shortage on a drought caused by the El Nino effect, which has led to a drop in water levels in the country's reservoirs.

Critics, however, say that the current problem is a result of mismanagement and inefficient running of Venezuela's power network. They say more investment in power plants and increasing power bills could have averted the crisis. Generous state subsidies for the power sector have kept electricity bills low and citizens typically pay US$1 (0.88 euros) a month for power.

The country's electricity problem has compounded the ongoing economic crisis, which has citizens suffering shortage of medicines and essential goods like toilet paper and cooking oil. Over the weekend, frustrated citizens lined a major highway with motorcycles and trash to protest the current situation.

Some citizens have also expressed fears of rising crime because of power shortages. "I'm worried about the cuts at night because crime, which is already strong here, could increase," Tais Aponto, an opposition community organizer from Santa Teresa del Tuy, around 60 kilometers (40 miles) from Caracas, told journalists.

mg/kms (AP, AFP)