CAUGHT in the grip of a severe drought and ongoing political turmoil, the Venezuelan government has announced a two-day working week for civil servants for the foreseeable future.
More than two million public sector workers will be affected by the decision which comes as the El Nino weather phenomenon led to a serious water shortage at the country’s prime hydroelectric dam.
The beleaguered South American country is now doing all that it can to save energy, and the latest move follows a decision to allow three-day weekends for 2.8 million civil servants throughout April.
The president also reversed a trademark 2007 decision by his predecessor Hugo Chavez to turn the clocks back by 30 minutes to allow schoolchildren to wake up in sunlight. Now the previous system is being employed in order to secure more evening light to increase production.
Those initiatives have clearly not been enough to keep the country functional but president Nicolas Maduro has called for calm.
“We are requesting international help, technical and financial aid to help revert the situation,” he said. “We are managing the situation in the best possible way while we wait for the rains to return.”
“Several countries in the region have been affected by the drought, caused by El Nino. But Venezuela has the highest domestic consumption of energy.”
Naturally the government’s handling of the crisis has been heavily criticised by the opposition, who are now in the process of collecting the necessary four million signatures to impose a referendum on Maduro’s presidency.
Food shortages, rampant inflation and heightened social tensions have seen the popularity of Hugo Chavez’s less charismatic successor plummet, while opposition parties gained control of the legislature in landmark elections held last year.
Translating their sense of opportunity into tangible power will, however, prove difficult given the president’s core popularity among the working classes. If Maduro does lose a great deal of his residual support it will likely result in more voter apathy, rather than a switch to what many poorer citizens consider the oligarchs of the opposition.