Country to change time zone by 30 minutes

CARACAS Fri Aug 24, 2007 10:33am EDT

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CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has changed his country's name, redesigned its flag and rejigged its coat of arms in his drive for a socialist state.

Now the leftist reformer, highly popular for redistributing oil income, is seeking to move the country's time zone to offer a more equitable distribution of sunlight.

Venezuela in September will turn clocks back by 30 minutes as it switches time zones to boost the amount of natural light to residents, a government official said on Thursday.

Next month Venezuelan clocks will be set at Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) minus 4-1/2 hours, compared to the previous GMT minus four hours, Science and Technology Minister Hector Navarro told reporters at a news conference.

He said the measure sought "a more fair distribution of the sunrise," which would particularly help poor children who wake up before dawn to go to school.

"Very rigorous scientific studies have determined that ... the metabolic activity of living beings is synchronized with the sun's light," he said.

Navarro said the government is planning to announce additional measures to "make more effective use of time."

Venezuela, which under Chavez was officially changed to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, adopted its current time zone in the 1960s.

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