To Save Power, Venezuela Gives Public Employees Fridays Off

Apr 8, 2016
Originally published on April 8, 2016 6:27 pm

As a drought in Venezuela pushes the country's water levels to extreme lows, President Nicolas Maduro has declared every Friday for the next two months a holiday for public employees to save electricity and water.

The government believes the four-day workweek will help save energy until the rainy season picks up in May, El Pais newspaper reports. According to Newsweek, the South American nation "depends on hydropower for 60 percent of its electricity."

Maduro's order, however, excludes food-industry workers, as there is already a shortage of "grains, meat, dairy and vegetables" due to the economic crisis in Venezuela, Reuters reports. "Lines of hundreds sometimes snake around supermarkets, so a four-day work week in that sector would likely have worsened the scarcity," the news service adds.

The Fridays-off decree is part of a 60-day plan that also asks families, businesses and youth to be aware of their energy usage, Maduro said in a television appearance late Wednesday night.

The president's announcement came after Maduro gave workers three additional days off after the Easter holidays last month. According to Bloomberg, Maduro said "those efforts saved almost 22 centimeters of water at Guri Dam in the southern state of Bolivar, which supplies as much as 75 percent of the electricity consumed in the capital, Caracas."

According to El Pais, however, the Holy Week shutdown — aimed at reducing electricity consumption by 60 percent — was a failure, as high temperatures prompted an uptick in the use of air conditioning.

The long weekends may appeal to some workers, but not to everyone.

"Just because Maduro doesn't work Monday to Friday, Saturday or Sunday, doesn't mean we Venezuelans are like that," said opposition politician Maria Corina Machado, according to Reuters. "What we want is to keep working, and for you, Maduro, to go."

Luis Miguel Lopez, who works for the wealthy opposition municipality of Chacao in Caracas, told the news service the decree was "illogical."

"People are going to be at home consuming energy all the same," he said.

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