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Venezuela's energy crisis is so bad that 2 million public employees now get 5-day weekends

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Two million public sector employees in Venezuela will only have to work two days a week, getting mandatory five-day weekends as part of the Venezuelan government's latest last-gasp attempt to save power.

The dry El Nino winter has caused a gargantuan electricity crisis in Venezuela: The Latin American country continues to deplete the water reserves in the country's hydroelectric dams, which are responsible for more than 60 percent of the country's power.

Vice-President Aristobulo Isturiz announced civil servants only need to come in on Mondays and Tuesdays, unless they have "fundamental and necessary tasks" on Wednesday.

The Venezuelan government has gradually rearranged the nation's schedule around the power crisis — even considering a special emergency version of daylight saving time:

  • The government shut down the whole country for five days during Easter.
  • President Nicolas Maduro declared every Friday a national holiday in April and May.
  • Malls and hotels are required to generate their own power for nine hours every day, and heavy industries are required to decrease their energy usage by 20 percent. The government is also expected to announce further power-cut mandates.
  • The Venezuelan government is seriously considering pushing clocks forward 30 minutes to cut power needs in the early evening.

"We are requesting international help, technical and financial aid to help revert the situation," Maduro said, according to the BBC. "We are managing the situation in the best possible way while we wait for the rains to return."

But Madura's words haven't assured Venezuelans, who have long been skeptical of the country leadership's competence in handling basic public services.

Their concern is not completely unfounded. Vox's Brad Plumer explains the larger context behind Venezuela's energy crisis:

But the bigger story here is that Venezuela's socialist government has badly mismanaged the electric grid for years. Since 2000, the country has failed to add enough electric capacity to satisfy soaring demand, making it incredibly vulnerable to disruptions at its existing dams. Venezuela has been enduring periodic blackouts and rationing ever since 2009 — and there's no sign things will improve anytime soon.

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