February 10, 2010 / 4:27 PM / 10 years ago

Venezuelans turn to God over power-crisis

* Electricity firm announces prayer-meeting

* Power crisis weighs on economy, politics

CARACAS, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Power-rationing has failed. The rains have still not come. So Venezuelan electricity workers are seeking divine help to solve the nation’s power crisis.

State oil company Edelca has summoned all its workers to an hourlong prayer meeting scheduled for Friday and titled: “Clamor to God for the National Electricity Sector.”

“Let us support this summons with our presence, united in our commitment to lift up our great company,” Edelca President Igor Gavidia Leon wrote in a note to staff, under a quote from the Bible saying God will hear the prayers of humble people.

Edelca, which belongs to state power corporation Corpoelec, runs the massive Guri reservoir and hydro-electric complex that used to provide nearly half of Venezuela’s power but has for months been suffering low water-levels due to a drought.

Power cuts have been occurring since 2009, threatening Venezuela’s recovery from recession and hurting President Hugo Chavez’s ratings before a sensitive legislative election.

Saying rationing so far had not brought consumption down enough, Chavez declared an “electricity emergency” this week. He signed a decree that promised consumers and businesses big discounts for slashing consumption but also ordered fines for those that do not comply with cuts. [ID:nN09112551]

The government blames the shortages on a long drought from the El Nino weather phenomenon, and soaring demand during five years of economic growth until 2008 in the OPEC-member nation.

Critics say poor management and under-investment have undermined the power grid and exposed the failings of Chavez’s “21st century socialism” policies during his 11-year rule.

Writing by Andrew Cawthorne, editing by Vicki Allen

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