Sections of Aragua, Zulia, Miranda, Merida, Bolivar, Tachira and Lara states have apparently been experiencing sporadic blackouts throughout the day. The region most heavily affected appears to be Zulia state, where Twitter uses have reported being without power for the majority of the day.
A heat wave has recently hit the country, forcing Venezuelans indoors to the comfort of their air conditioners. The extra stress on the electrical grid forced Minister of Electrical Energy Jesse Chacon to announce a series of rationing measures yesterday.
Temperatures in Maracaibo are forecast to hit the mid-upper 30s all week; the same is true for Valencia, Carabobo, while Caracas is expected to hit at least 30 degrees for the next week.
Today, speaking an event in Valencia, Maduro urged Venezuelans to reject the idea of consumerism and instead focus on conserving energy:
Maduro: … I took the measure of [changing] the schedule of public workers til 1:00 PM. All of them who could be, huh, an object in this measure to save energy as a means to lead by example above all. I asked the [inaudible] to lead by example at the Miraflores Palace [the presidential residence]. Tonight, they should present to me — last night we greatly reduced [energy consumption]. Today, we should be able to break all the records of energy saving We’re going to turn off the lights and the air conditioner so that starting at 1:00 PM, the bare minimum will work.
We have to do it because we’re in a heat wave. This time will pass; the rains will come, and things will cool off. This means that in the face of difficulty, we have to act, continue to move forward. Some people, when faced with difficulty — look, it’s 37 [degrees] here in the shade. It’s five degrees hotter than what was forecast for today. So, if we go out on the sun, plus the humidity — 40, 42 [degrees]. So people go, “bap, bap, bap”, and turn on their air conditioners. Along with all their televisions. We’re leading by example; we just have the one T.V. Just for now, until the heat wave passes.
We have to encourage families to save energy and consume energy more efficiently. Sometimes you have three, four televisions on at home at the same time. Am I lying? And all the lights. That’s three rooms, four rooms, plus the living room, outside, inside, upstairs, downstairs. And it’s like that in this house, and another, and another. Venezuelans tend to consume a lot of everything.
We should lead happy lives without consumerism. That’s our motto: Let’s conquer a life of happiness without consumerism. Can we do that? A life where, when it comes to energy, we can save. When we face difficulty, we have to move on. Heat waves? Move forward with three measures: 1) Save, and lead by example, 2) Inspect all generating stations and [force] the biggest consumers – malls, which consumer a lot of everything and don’t produce anything. The only purpose malls serve is to let you go there and walk around, and sometimes buy something. Because we go to the mall just to look around, right? Sometimes you buy something. Or you tell yourself, “I’m going to buy that shirt”. And then, when the time comes, you buy it. But malls have multiplied by the dozen throughout the country. I’m permanently on tour of the country, and I always see malls everywhere. New, gigantic malls — right, Cilia? — gigantic! “When did they build this mall?”, “Last year”. So, the second measure is to save and to generate during peak hours. Do you understand? And 3) All of us in our homes pitching in by saving. Everyone puts their little pebble, and together we can make a mountain.
This way, we’re able to maintain the electric equilibrium that we’ve worked so hard to achieve. We maintain the equilibrium, and overcome the difficulty of the heat wave.
Maduro: “Not in a Hurry” to Raise Gas Prices
Maduro also spoke today on the topic of increases to gas prices. Starting late last year, Maduro began to hint that an increase to the price Venezuelans pay for gas was coming, although he never clarified a timeline. Today, Maduro said that he was “not in a hurry” to raise the gas prices:
Maduro: … it was a kind of plastic pass card, and that’s what I used when I was a worker. And with this pass card, I could travel on the Metro [subway] and Metrobus [bus] all the time. It was a contractual right of the workers. Ok, let’s give this to [inaudible]. How much does this cost? 4 Bs.? With 4 Bs. you can fill up your gas tank.
In other words, for what you pay for a single subway trip — and it’s a good price, by the way — you can fill up a gas tank. What do you think about that? It’s very disproportionate, right? Completely. Anyway, the day will come for us to fix this problem. It hasn’t arrived yet. There’s no hurry — I’m not in a hurry. When it comes to the issue of gas [prices], as I’ve been saying, I’m not in a hurry. First things first. First, we have to guarantee a victory in 2015. First, we have to ensure that all of the [public] works for the people will be finished. First, we have to write responses to all of the mangoes people are sending me [a playful jab to an incident earlier this week when someone threw a mango at his head]. Right? Let’s write responses to Maduro’s Mangoes’ and then we can take care of the rest.
BCV: International Reserves at $18.985 Billion
The Banco Central de Venezuela announced today that its foreign currency reserves had dropped to $18.985 billion by April 27, down from $22.076 billion at the start of the year. The last time Venezuela’s foreign currency reserves dipped below the $19 billion mark was nearly 12 years ago.
Economist Asdrubal Oliveros spoke to AFP on the news, and said:
Starting in April, the effects of the falling oil prices really began to be felt.
Oliveros also said that the situation is being exacerbated by the government’s attempts to alleviate the scarcity crisis, which it has attempted to do by handing over more and more foreign currency to importers.
Finally, Oliveros highlighted that recent financial announcements – including a $10 billion dollar deal with China and a gold swap worth $1 billion – are clear indications that the national government understands it is in a difficult position.