Venezuela has reversed a half-hour time change that was one of the signature measures of former president Hugo Chávez’s idiosyncratic 14-year rule.
Chávez turned Venezuela’s clocks back 30 minutes in 2007 so that children could wake up for school in daylight.
But his successor, Nicolás Maduro, has decided to return to the previous system, four hours behind GMT, to ensure more daylight in the evening when energy consumption peaks.
A severe drought is affecting the Guri reservoir that provides two-thirds of Venezuela’s power needs, and water and electricity outages are frequent.
“This extra half-hour of sunlight will allow a better electricity saving because it is at night when people return from work and schools that they turn on lights and air-conditioning,” the science minister, Jorge Arreaza, said.
Arreaza, who married Chávez’s daughter, said the change would come into effect on 1 May. “It’s as simple as waking up and putting your watch forward half an hour.”
President Maduro’s government, in power since 2013 following Chávez’s death from cancer, has been cautious in rolling back any of the revered socialist leader’s measures.
The time change accompanies a flurry of other power-saving measures, including three-day weekends for public sector employees, rationing at malls and exhortations for women to use hairdryers less.
On the street, there was some scepticism, however.
“I really don’t agree with this,” said Carlos, an accountant in Caracas. “It’s not true that this will save power because you use the same amount no matter what the time.”
There were jokes on social media too.
“Venezuela’s new time-zone: hours without light, hours without water, hours of presidential broadcasts, hours of lines,” quipped comedian Jean Mary Curro in reference to the South American nation’s multiple economic problems.
Opponents say Venezuela’s energy problems are no laughing matter. While Maduro blames the drought on the El Niño weather phenomenon, critics say the state is also guilty for inadequate investment, preparation and diversification of power sources to avoid over-dependence on the Guri dam.
Daily water and electricity cuts have added to hardship from a deep recession, the world’s highest inflation, long lines at shops and shortages of basics from milk to medicines.
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