Venezuela

The four-day work week: Venezuela’s solution to power crisis

Protesters who say they have family members who are political prisoners hold up chains and signs showing their jailed relatives' faces at the Apostolic Nunciature building in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 5, 2016. Dozens protested to ask Pope Francis to mediate with the government in favor of an amnesty law that would free the prisoners, which was passed last week by the opposition majority in the National Assembly. President Nicolas Maduro is expected to veto the measure.
Protesters who say they have family members who are political prisoners hold up chains and signs showing their jailed relatives' faces at the Apostolic Nunciature building in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 5, 2016. Dozens protested to ask Pope Francis to mediate with the government in favor of an amnesty law that would free the prisoners, which was passed last week by the opposition majority in the National Assembly. President Nicolas Maduro is expected to veto the measure. AP

Venezuela’s energy crisis may be good for the overworked but another blow to the struggling economy. Starting Friday, the government is shutting all public offices on Fridays through May in hopes of avoiding blackouts.

In a nationally televised address, President Nicolás Maduro said the measure was necessary to avoid rationing, as water levels at the nation’s largest hydroelectric dam have hit record low levels.

“We’re going to have long weekends [so] we need public and state workers to increase their output so it doesn’t affect productivity,” he said. “But we already have experience with that.”

Indeed, last month, the government extended the Easter holidays by three days to cope with the power crisis.

The administration is hoping that a series of measures (including forcing malls and hotels to generate some of their own electricity) will help reduce power usage.

How the move will affect the region’s weakest economy remains to be seen. Venezuela’s GDP is expected to shrink by 7 percent this year, as plummeting oil prices have depleted government coffers.

Venezuelans took to Twitter to roast the administration.

“Venezuela is the only country with three-day weekends,” wrote someone using the name Pietro. “The lazy man’s dream is now reality.”

Venezuela boasts the world’s largest oil reserves but is reliant on hydroelectric power for most of its electricity. While some of the blame can be placed on the El Niño weather phenomenon that has hammered the region, critics accuse the cash-strapped administration of failing to invest in infrastructure and maintenance.

David Smolansky, the mayor of El Hatillo, part of greater Caracas, said his staff would be working on the street despite the government-mandated furlough.

“The Maduro decree affects millions of Venezuelans who need to be taken care of,” he told El Nacional newspaper. “For those of us who work in public administration, sending us home only hurts the people who need us — and this country in crisis.”

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