CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela on Friday reversed a half-hour time change that was one of the signature measures of former president Hugo Chavez’s idiosyncratic 14-year rule.
Chavez turned Venezuela’s clocks back 30 minutes in 2007 so that children could wake up for school in daylight.
But his successor Nicolas Maduro has decided to return to the previous system, four hours behind GMT, to ensure more daylight in the evening when energy consumption peaks.
A severe drought is affecting the Guri reservoir that provides two-thirds of Venezuela’s power needs, and water and electricity outages are frequent.
“This extra half hour of sunlight will allow a better electricity saving because it is at night when people return from work and schools that they turn on lights and air-conditioning,” Science Minister Jorge Arreaza said.
Arreaza, who married Chavez’s daughter, said the end of Venezuela’s unique time zone would come into effect on May 1. “It’s as simple as waking up and putting your watch forward half an hour,” he explained on state TV.
President Maduro’s government, in power since 2013 following Chavez’s death from cancer, has been cautious in rolling back any of the revered socialist leader’s measures.
The time change accompanies a flurry of other measures, including rationing at malls and exhortations for women to use hair-dryers and other appliances less, meant to save power in the OPEC nation of 29 million people.
On the street, there was some skepticism, however.
“I really don’t agree with this,” said Carlos, an accountant in Caracas. “It’s not true that this will save power because you use the same amount no matter what the time.”
There were jokes on social media too.
“Venezuela’s new time-zone: hours without light, hours without water, hours of presidential broadcasts, hours of lines,” quipped comedian Jean Mary Curro in reference to the South American nation’s multiple economic problems.
Opponents say Venezuela’s energy problems are no laughing matter. While Maduro blames the drought on the El Nino weather phenomenon, critics say the state is also guilty for inadequate investment, preparation and diversification of power sources to avoid over-dependence on the Guri dam.
Daily water and electricity cuts have added to hardship from a deep recession, the world’s highest inflation, long lines at shops, and shortages of basics from milk to medicines.
Additional reporting by Diego Ore; Editing by James Dalgleish