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Venezuela sets clocks ahead to save power



WITH their country gripped by an economic crisis, Venezuelans lost half an hour of sleep Sunday as their clocks were set forward to save power on President Nicolas Maduro's order.

At 2:30 am local time, the oil-dependent South American nation shifted its time ahead by 30 minutes -- to four hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.

The move, announced in mid-April, is part of a package of measures the embattled socialist president is pursuing to cope with a crippling electricity shortage.

Maduro's government has also instituted four-hour daily blackouts across most of the country, reduced the public-sector workweek to two days and ordered schools closed on Fridays -- adding to the woes of a country already stuck in a crushing recession.

The power cuts sparked riots and looting this week in Venezuela's second-largest city, Maracaibo.

In announcing the time change, Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza said the nighttime use of lighting and air conditioning was especially draining for the power grid.

"It'll be simple to move the clock forward a half-hour -- this will allow us to enjoy more daylight, and it won't get dark so early," he said.

Maduro's late predecessor, Hugo Chavez, implemented the unusual half-hour time shift in December 2007, saying he didn't want children to have to walk to school in the dark. Chavez died in 2013.

Officials issued a statement saying the return to the old time zone would not affect bank transactions or flights.

Maduro blames the El Nino weather phenomenon for a drought that has reduced the lakes at Venezuela's hydroelectric dams to oversized puddles.

The dry spell, the most severe in 40 years, has especially affected the El Guri dam, which provides 70 percent of Venezuela's electricity.

But the opposition says mismanagement is to blame for the power crisis as well as the recession and shortages.

Speaking in a national broadcast on the eve of International Workers' Day, Maduro decreed a 30-percent increase in the minimum wage.


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