In the US workplace, we have "casual" Fridays; in Venezuela, they now have "don't bother coming in" Fridays. President Nicolas Maduro announced that Fridays for the next 60 days will be official state holidays to save energy in a country that's been plagued by blackouts and other power issues, Reuters reports. "We'll have long weekends," Maduro said Wednesday in a somewhat bizarre "hours-long" program on state TV that included "music, dancing, and giant pictures of late leader Hugo Chavez." Maduro hopes to slash energy use by at least 20% by combining other measures with this one, which Maduro said applies to all public workers who won't adversely affect production with their absence, the AP reports. Hotels and malls are being asked to use generators as well, per Gizmodo.
The energy crisis has been brought about by a harsh El Niño-caused drought that's crippled the country's hydroelectricity-dominated infrastructure and brought water levels at power plants "to a critical threshold," Bloomberg notes. Between 60% and almost 70% of the country's energy is from hydropower, per the AP and Reuters. But not everyone's excited about the prospect of forced three-day weekends. Critics say it's a bad time to be shutting things down, considering the country's current recession and inflation issues, as well as a dearth of certain medicines and food items. Others wonder what the plan means for operating schools, markets, and hospitals. And some say that people are just going to use electricity while they're home, since the cost is so low. "For Maduro the best way to resolve this crisis is to reduce the country's productivity," a Caracas city councilor tells Reuters. "Fridays are free bread and circus." (Maduro's relatives have been in trouble with the DEA.)