Venezuela's New Energy Strategy: Maduro Gives Weeklong Holiday to Workers to Save Power
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has devised a new strategy to address the country's major power crises.
All workers will now have an extended furlough adding three days to next week's Easter holiday, the official gazette announced on Tuesday.
The weeklong holiday for all workers was announced a day after Venezuela's electricity minister warned of the declining water level at the Simon Bolivar dam, the country's largest. The dam's water level fell to within just 3 meters (10 feet) of its minimum operating level.
Repercussions of the Drought
Maduro's socialist administration points to the drought caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon as the cause of the dam's declining water level. The president also claimed that his political opponents have been repeatedly sabotaging the electrical grid.
The drought pushed Venezuela to reduce the use of energy-wasting appliances as well as shorten the work hours for public employees. Industry experts, however, said the crisis could be averted if the government invested in the dam's maintenance. Experts added that the administration should have pushed through with the planned expansion of thermoelectric plants that run on fossil fuels.
The Simon Bolivar dam, along with two other hydroelectric facilities downriver, supplies around 70 percent of Venezuela's electricity. The nation is one of the countries with the world's largest oil reserves.
Industry experts warned that electricity rationing will be essential as temperatures continue to rise and the rainy season is still weeks away.
Venezuela Struggles Amid Drought
In January, Venezuela's state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, temporarily suspended its export of natural gas to its neighbor Colombia due to climate factors.
These gas exports are part of the two countries' agreement, which also includes a provision that both nations should be able to supply their own markets before exporting to their neighbor. Colombia was an important supplier of gas to Venezuela for eight years.
Suspending gas exports is also due to the need to generate electricity. Like Venezuela, Colombia is also suffering from an El Niño-triggered drought, which has caused the plummeting levels of hydroelectric dams.
In February, residents in Venezuela's capital, Caracas, had no access to drinking water allegedly due to a maintenance project intended for keeping water levels high throughout the drought, Breitbart reported.
Water Minister Ernesto Paiva said last month that the majority of the dams that generate electricity to Caracas are now empty, which could result in the absence of water and electricity in the city. Throughout February, periodical suspensions of running water have been carried out.
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