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Venezuela Announces Daily 4-Hour Power Cuts Amid Drought

A customer buys candles for electricity rationing and Holy Week at a shop in central Caracas, Venezuela, in March.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
A customer buys candles for electricity rationing and Holy Week at a shop in central Caracas, Venezuela, in March.

Venezuela's government says it will be shutting off the power for four hours a day. It's the country's latest effort to save energy, amid a drought that has caused water levels to plunge at a hydroelectric dam that produces most of Venezuela's electricity.

"It's necessary, it's a sacrifice," Electricity Minister Luis Motta Dominguez said in a televised speech Thursday, according to news reports.

The cuts will last 40 days, "or until water levels stabilize at the Guri Dam that provides most of the South American country's electricity," according to The Associated Press.

The Wall Street Journal says the cuts "will begin Monday in 10 of Venezuela's 23 states," while the BBC notes that "the hours of suspension would be published on a daily basis in newspapers and on ministerial websites."

"Who's going to replace our food that goes bad after the light is turned off?" Ana Gomez, an accountant, told the Journal. "Who's going to guarantee me that it'll be the four hours the governments says it'll be?"

Earlier this month, the government said it would give public employees Fridays off for several months to save electricity, the Two-Way reported, adding that "the Fridays-off decree is part of a 60-day plan that also asks families, businesses and youth to be aware of their energy usage."

Moreover, the sharp drop in global oil prices has "left Venezuela struggling to maintain its system of currency and price controls, leaving Venezuelans stuck in lines for hours to seek everything from corn flour to basic medicine," Reuters reported.

As Venezuelans digest news that they'll have no power for hours a day, they also may have to do without beer from the country's largest brewer, Polar.

In a statement, Empresas Polar SA says it has enough raw materials to last only until April 29, because a dollar shortage is keeping it from buying foreign grain. The company says it is suspending production of beer and malt, which will impact 10,000 employees.

Polar "produces 80% of the country's beer," according to the BBC.

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Merrit Kennedy
Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
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