Venezuela public workers use energy-saving Fridays for TV, shopping

Fri Apr 22, 2016 11:48am EDT
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By Daniel Kai and Mircely Guanipa

CARACAS/PUNTO FIJO (Reuters) - Ordered off on Fridays to save energy in crisis-hit Venezuela, many public workers are simply cranking up appliances at home instead.

Or rather than use using their long weekends to relax and go to the beach, they are baking under the sun in lines at shops for ever scarcer products in the shrinking economy.

President Nicolas Maduro decreed a four-day work week for most of Venezuela's 2.8 million state employees during April and May to reduce consumption during a drought at the Guri dam, which serves two-thirds of national power needs.

Not all workers are taking him seriously.

"Last Friday, I watched TV with air-conditioning on full," said Angel Aranguren, a 33-year-old engineer from Punto Fijo in the dry and wind-swept Caribbean state of Falcon.

"I don't know how this measure is going to help the country's electricity system," he said. "It's stupid. They'd be better off working on new energy projects."

Electricity Minister Luis Motta told Reuters that government moves like the obligatory four-day week were helping compensate for irresponsibly high private power use.

But Maduro critics have mocked the measure, saying he may as well shut the entire country down.   Continued...

People queue to try to buy basic food items outside a supermarket in Caracas, April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins