Freddy Brito, the Vice-Minister for the Development of the Electrical Industry, announced early this morning that a government gamble to declare all of last week a holiday in order to reduce energy consumption did not work as planned. On VTV’s El Desayuno, Brito said:
It didn’t have the desired impact. We thought – we projected – that during Holy Week we would have a considerably reduction [in electricity consumption].
On March 12, Maduro declared all of Holy Week (March 21-25) a holiday, and ordered all government institutions closed for the duration. The effect was that the country was essentially shut down for all of last week. Maduro took the measure in order to help reduce the country’s energy consumption.
Brito explained that the likely culprit for the failure of the initiative is the fact that while people were not working, they were at home using air conditioning units and home electronics.
Guri Levels Unknown
The ongoing drought is affecting energy production in the country, with the Guri hydroelectric plant finding itself in a particularly precarious condition. According to the latest measurements, the dam’s water level is approximately 246.53 meters, 5 meters above the critical level where it would be unable to operate. The Guri plant is the country’s largest.
During the show, Brito refused to provide an update on where the dam’s water level sits currently. However, he did say that it had not yet reached the 244 meter mark, which is crucial because the plant’s turbines would begin sustaining considerable damage starting at that level.
Brito also said that the reason for the decrease in the dam’s water level is not due to government mismanagement:
[The levels] are not due to mismanagement, but rather due to the drought. In fact, if we didn’t have [a good system] of measurement, the levels would be lower.
Brito also said that he is confident that the Guri plant will be able to stay in operation until the start of the rainy season, at which time presumably the typical rains that occur would begin to replenish the dam’s water. The rainy season usually starts in May.
Speaking on criticisms that the reason that the country is suffering so much from these electrical problems is that the national government has neglected to invest in the development and maintenance of electrical infrastructure over the last 17 years, Brito said that this was false, and that the government has increased generating capacity by five thousand megawatts of thermal energy over the last give years.
SIDOR Shut Down For 20 Days
The Siderurgica del Orinoco (SIDOR), once a powerhouse of steel production in the country, has been completely shut down for the past 20 days due to strike action by the workers. Workers are demanding a 50% increase in wages, since the last two salary increases announced by the national government did not apply to them.
The workers are also upset by some of the government’s energy-saving measures. Most recently, the national government ordered SIDOR to cut back on its energy consumption, which forced the it to shut down the forges at the Palanquillas and Planchones steelworks.
The workers have held a series of demonstrations and marches, the latest of which happened on March 17 and resulted in the government yielding to a 30% increase in wages. However, Carlos Ramirez, a spokesperson for the workers, said that the two sides were still far apart when it came to the matter of energy:
SIDOR asked for 300 megawatts to get started, but they denied that. I think they only approved 90 megawatts, which doesn’t amount to anything.
SIDOR managed to produce a million tonnes of liquid steel last year, which amounts to only 23% of the company’s proven capacity as of 2007.
VP: 21 Looting Events During Holidays
Vice-President Aristobulo Isturiz provided a balance of crime during the the Holy Week holidays today. Below is a list of the figures for some of the crimes Isturiz reported:
- 22 kidnappings
- 21 looting events
- 20 hospital robberies
- 14 educational institution robberies
- 15 pedestrians killed by vehicles
- 18 cases of animal cruelty
Isturiz said that as many as 18.8 million Venezuelans moved around the country during the holidays, and that as many as 202,000 police and National Guard officers participated in security operations throughout the country.
Isturiz said that five people died as a result of violence during the holidays, and that more than 6,000 required medical attention.
Isturiz also provided the following figures of events that occurred in the country over the past week:
- 607 reports of forest fires
- 782 traffic collisions
- 575 collisions resulting in “material damages”
- 167 “accidents” resulting in injuries
- 43 traffic collisions resulting in fatalities
Isturiz said that overall, the 2016 Holy Week was a success, and that:
… the country enjoyed a safe Holy Week in supreme happiness.
Tourism Industry: Hotel Stays Fall 40% From Last Year
The head of the Consejo Superior de Turismo [CONSETURISMO], Jose Yapur, told Union Radio today that Venezuelan hotels saw a decrease in stays of 40% from the Holy Week holidays of 2015.
Yapur explained that the dramatic drop in hotel stays is likely a result of the hotel industry itself, since many of them chose to reduce operations due to a general lack of resources:
There were [blackouts], there were cuts to electrical service that weren’t scheduled, as well as failures in the water service.
If we don’t see improvements in the delivery of public utilities then people won’t want to travel, because they affect the home and lessen the desire to go out and travel. We’re living through a very difficult year for the industry.
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