Energy-poor Venezuela Mandates Blackouts, 2-day Workweek

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April 27, 2016

Venezuelans will be in the dark, off and on, for awhile, as a result of a severe energy shortage.

The country and its residents are suffering through a severe drought and hoping that the annual rainy season is plentiful and not too far away. The country is heavily dependent on hydroelectric power, and the drought has severely curtailed the energy industry’s ability to supply electricity in a sustained way. Venezuela also uses oil as a power source, but its use is much more costly than the use of water.

Across the country, rolling blackouts of four hours or more are now the norm. Residents in one city that endured a 12-hour blackout turned to the streets to vent their frustration, leading to several arrests.

President Nicolas Maduro has declared a two-day workweek for government employees, who will see their weekends grow to include Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. In addition, primary schools will also shut their doors on Fridays.

Venezuela has the world’s largest hydroelectric station, at Guri Dam, the world’s fourth-largest water-powered dam. But historically low rainfalls have driven the reservoir level down to a dangerous low. Some observers also point to allegations of mismanagement of the country’s existing resources.

Hydroelectricity also powers some of the country’s largest steel and aluminum mills.

The overall economic outlook is not at all positive. The International Monetary Fund reports inflation in Venezuela running at 720 percent. As well, the country is in the grips of a widening spread of the Zika virus.

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