CARACAS, Venezuela, April 15 (UPI) — President Nicolas Maduro is proposing drastic new steps to combat the energy crisis crippling Venezuela.
These include changing the country’s time zone and rationing electricity supplies to 15 shopping malls.
Maduro said Thursday that the new change will take effect May 1. He didn’t provide details, except to state that it will be an additional emergency measure to prevent power outages.
Vice President Jorge Arreaza said Friday the country would move its clocks forward a half-hour to the GMT-4 zone.
Venezuela is suffering from a severe drought, which is reducing power output by lowering water levels at hydroelectric dams that account for two-thirds of the country’s energy needs.
“It’s a very simple measure that represents an important savings,” Maduro explained about the time zone change.
He has also declared Monday a public holiday in a bid to save energy, and told shopping centers to generate their own electricity. Movie theaters are required to close early and the country’s 30 million citizens have been asked to ease up on the use of hairdryers.
Altogether, the Venezuelan government is looking to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent. Maduro has been giving state employees Fridays off to save power usage.
Critics of Maduro’s government say government inefficiency, lack of maintenance and lack of investment have exacerbated the problem. Maduro’s administration has blamed a the “El Niño” weather pattern for making things worse.
The Guri hydroelectric plant in Venezuela’s Bolívar state, which supplies the country with 63 percent of its hydroelectric power, is less than 10 feet from dipping to a critically low water level.
It’s not the first time in recent years that a Venezuelan president has taken the decision change the nation’s time zone.
In 2007, the late Hugo Chavez turned back clocks by a half-hour to make afternoons a little longer.