CARACAS (AP) – Venezuela's government says it will turn off electricity nationwide for four hours each day, formalizing the blackouts that people have already been experiencing during a worsening energy crisis.
Electricity Minister Luis Motta said Thursday that the rationing will start next week, and he called on Venezuelans to buckle down and show their patriotism. He said the rolling blackouts would last for 40 days or until water levels stabilize at the Guri Dam, which provides most of the South American country's electricity.
The daily power cut is just the latest in a long list of energy-saving measures announced in recent weeks. President Nicolas Maduro has also given public workers Fridays off, declared new national holidays, and said he will shift the country's time zone to help to ease the crisis. He's also suggested that women stop blow drying their hair and that everyone leave off ironing their clothes.
Maduro's socialist administration blames the crisis on a drought caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon and acts of sabotage by its opponents. Experts say a lack of investment in infrastructure is more to blame.
Venezuela has grappled with blackouts for years, including one that took Maduro by surprise as he delivered a national address on live television.
The power outages have compounded other problems of daily life. The country is already among the most violent in the world, and streets become doubly scary when pitch black. Power outages also knock out service from the water tanks with electric pumps that many Venezuelans use to deal with chronic cuts to running water.
The country has seen a bit of rain in recent days, but not enough to signal the end of the dry season.