Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolás Maduro has ordered all government employees to come into work only on Mondays and Tuesdays, enraging parents who want their children to go to school and opposition members who have deemed the decree “immoral.”
Maduro announced Tuesday that government workers would be expected to come into work two days a week until further notice, a measure intended to reduce the nation’s use of electricity. Venezuela depends on hydroelectric power and is currently suffering a drought that has left its main dam barely operational. ABC News notes that the measure affects an estimated three million workers on the government dole. They will be paid full weeks despite the measure. Schools are explicitly included in the measure, leaving the nation’s children without class for most of the week.
Maduro previously decreed three-day weekends to reduce demand for electricity nationwide, a move that elicited severe criticism of Maduro’s “laziness” and the “improvisational nature” of his rule. He has, nonetheless, opted for a more extreme version of this plan, which also included requesting that women not use electric hair dryers until further notice. Maduro has also followed in the footsteps of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and established his own time zone, moving Venezuelan clocks 30 minutes forward.
Experts say none of these efforts will likely reduce the nation’s energy consumption, least of those the time change. “They are thinking of water and electricity conservation, but there are few families who will abide by recommendations for saving [energy], so really this will not be very effective,” Venezuelan Professor Wílliam Fuenmayor told El Nacional. Fuenmayor noted that late dictator Hugo Chávez had tried to change time zones in an attempt to save electricity and failed.
Venezuela has been suffering infrastructure problems for years under Maduro, though the problem has been exacerbated recently. In February, an attempt to prevent the current drought situation resulted in millions of Caracas residents being deprived of drinking water due to alleged “maintenance.”
Outside the capital, the situation was even worse, as officials began rationing the water supply similarly to how necessary goods are rationed in supermarkets. Currently, Venezuelans must wait up to six or seven hours on supermarket lines to buy essential goods like flour, vegetable oil, and milk. Increasingly, these lines have become violent, with individuals physically beating each other for access to limited food resources. The electricity shortage will likely force supermarkets to be open for fewer hours, worsening wait times to pay for groceries.
The pro-democracy opposition in the National Assembly, meanwhile, is issuing stern statements condemning Maduro. “Here in the National Assembly we work Monday to Friday. The decree [license] to vagrancy dictated by the regime will not paralyze us,” the head of the assembly, Henry Ramos Allup, tweeted Tuesday.
“That because of corruption and electricity mafias our children will not have class is the height of immorality,” Maria Corina Machado, a former legislator, ousted from her position violently by Maduro’s police, said in response to the decree. “Venezuela demands education and productive work. These people are like gangrene,” she added. “They want to destroy and paralyze everything.”