Official rationing efforts will begin in Venezuela next Monday, leaving every home in the country without electricity supplies for 4 hours a day. Electricity Minister Luis Motta Dominguez announced Thursday on state television that the rationing, which includes the capital of Caracas, will last 40 days and he’s expected to release details of the daily power cuts on Friday.
A prolonged drought has led the massive Guri hydroelectric dam to reach historic lows and the government of President Nicolas Maduro blames the El Nino weather phenomenon while opposition critics claim authorities have failed to improve thermoelectric generation as an alternative source of power.
Last week, Maduro asked Venezuelans to dramatically reduce their consumption of electricity. Public workers are already working a four-day week and the government has extended public holidays as an attempt to reduce demand.
Motta: ‘It’s necessary, it’s a sacrifice’
It has been raining for a few days in the north of the country, but it hasn’t been enough. Located in the southern state of Bolivar, the Guri Dam supplies 75 percent of the power consumed in Caracas and roughly 40 percent of the electricity consumed across the nation.
Opposition leaders say the government could have prevented the current situation by reducing the usage of the water in the reservoir through enhanced thermoelectric generation.
The dam is at 242.07 meters and water levels continue to fall to the 240-meter mark that would mean the plant’s shut down.
Motta said power cuts would rotate during different four-hour periods and affirmed the move would help raise the level of the reservoir. He promised a “careful administration” of the Guri Dam. The cuts will not affect the crucial oil sector.
Miguel Lara, an independent power sector analyst, said in an interview from Caracas that Motta’s announcement has only made official what authorities had already been implementing, with several parts of Venezuela already without electricity for six to eight hours a day, according to a report by Bloomberg. Still, the rationing does represent breaking news for the capital, where people are not used to live with power cuts.
Lara affirmed the rationing would bring more chaos rather than solve the problem.
Rationing is just one of the many struggles Venezuelans are forced to deal with
Venezuela’s economy, which depends mainly on the sale of oil, shrank by 5.7 percent in 2015 and is projected to contract by an extra 8 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. Since Maduro took office in 2013, the currency has lost as much as 98 percent of its value on the black market and inflation is expected to increase to nearly 500 percent.
Venezuelans are already struggling to obtain basic medicine and food as low oil prices have stretched Maduro’s economic model and price controls have also forced people to stand in lines for hours to seek staple goods.
Maduro and his cabinet claim they’re the victims of an “economic war” led by opposition leaders with the support of the Obama administration.