Venezuela to begin electricity rationing

Supply to be turned off for four hours a day for 40 days in 10 states in latest move to alleviate severe power shortage.

Venezuela energy crisis
Venezuela is suffering from drought caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon [Reuters]

Venezuela’s government has said it will turn off electricity supply in its 10 most populous states for four hours a day for at least 40 days to deal with a severe power shortage.

It is the latest drastic measure aimed at alleviating the country’s severe electricity crisis.

Previous measures included giving government workers an extra day off each week for two months, asking shopping malls to generate their own power, shifting the country’s time zone forward by 30 minutes and urging women to stop using their hairdryers.

 El Nino worsening power situation in Venezuela

“Previous measures unfortunately failed,” Luis Motta Dominguez, Venezuela’s energy minister, said on Thursday.

“Each user will have a temporary suspension of four hours a day. The plan will last approximately 40 days.”

Announcing the restrictions, Dominguez said the hours of suspension would be published daily in newspapers and on ministerial websites.

He said the cuts would not happen between 8pm and midday.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and his government blame the crisis on a drought caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon.

However, the government’s critics say the crisis is really a result of mismanagement.

Al Jazeera Virginia Lopez, reporting from Caracas, said: “Up until now the government has tried to minimise the impact of the drought by introducing electricity-rationing measures. But these measures have failed, so they are now being forced to extend the rationing programme,” she said.

“Several business people we spoke to said the rationing will have severe implications for a productive sector of a country that is already facing a dire economic crisis.”

Growing pressure

Maduro is under growing pressure from the centre-right opposition, which pledged to topple him when it took control of the legislature in January after winning a landslide election victory, blaming him for the economic crisis.

Venezuela’s economy has plunged along with the price of the oil on which it relies on for foreign revenues.

Shortages of medicines and goods such as toilet paper and cooking oil are widespread.

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Recently, the country’s main brewery Polar, which is part of Venezuela’s largest cooperative Empresas Polar, announced that it would stop production as a result of financial difficulties.

The company, which produces 80 percent of the country’s beer, says thousands of workers will lose their jobs as a result of the stoppage.

Venezuelans have recently taken to the streets to protest against Maduro, a bus driver who was picked as successor to Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela is also in the grip of labour disputes and water-supply problems.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies