Venezuelans get Fridays off for next two months as part of emergency plan to save energy

The government of Venezuela is shutting the labour force on Fridays over the next two months as the country grapples with a shortage in electricity.
The government of Venezuela is shutting the labour force on Fridays over the next two months as the country grapples with a shortage in electricity.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

CARACAS (AFP) - Venezuelan workers will get Fridays off for the next two months as part of an emergency plan to save electricity, the president said.

Venezuela has the world's largest proven oil reserves but its economy is a mess, with rampant inflation, shortages of goods as basic as soap and toilet paper and constant blackouts.

Now, because of a severe drought that has left levels at hydroelectric dams at extremely low levels, in order save on electricity the government is effectively shutting the labor force down for a three-day weekend, starting this Friday (April 8) and lasting until June 6.

The decision was announced by President Nicolas Maduro in a speech on state TV.

He said the country is in dire straits because of low water level in Venezuela's 18 hydroelectric dams.

As an example, he cited the Guri dam in southeast Bolivia state. It supplies 70 per cent of the country's electricity. Mr Maduro said its water level is just 3cm above what is considered the critical level.

Mr Maduro also ordered state-run industries to cut their electricity consumption by 20 per cent, just as he has ordered the government to do.

But he stopped short of ordering electricity rationing in the residential sector, which is the largest consumer of electricity in Venezuela, or mandating utility rate hikes.