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Crisis-hit Venezuela to push clocks forward to save power

The move is part of a package of measures the OPEC member is pursuing to cope with an electricity shortage

Published: Updated:

With their country gripped by an economic crisis, Venezuelans will lose half an hour of sleep Sunday when their clocks are moved forward to save power on President Nicolas Maduro’s order.

At 2:30 am local time, the oil-dependent South American nation will shift 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 OPEC member is pursuing to cope with an electricity shortage.

The country has also allowed rolling blackouts and reduced public sector work weeks to two days a week, as well as ordered schools to close on Fridays.

The socialist Maduro government says the El Nino weather phenomenon has dried up the nation’s hydroelectric dams.

But the opposition says mismanagement is also to blame for the power crisis, as well as for shortage of food and basic supplies.

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.

Once-booming Venezuela, which has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, has plunged into economic chaos as global crude prices have collapsed.

Maduro blames the situation on an “economic war” against the country by capitalists and has vowed to press on with the socialist “revolution” launched by his late predecessor Hugo Chavez in 1999.

The opposition has been pushing to drive Maduro from office since it took control of the legislature in January.

On Saturday, opponents said they have gathered nearly ten times the roughly 200,000 signatures needed to begin organizing a referendum to remove the president.

If the electoral board verifies the signatures, the opposition will then have to collect four million more for the board to organize the vote.

It is racing to do so by the end of the year. After January, a successful recall vote would just transfer power to Maduro’s vice president rather than trigger new elections.

A recent Venebarometro poll indicated that more than two thirds of Venezuelans wanted Maduro to quit.