CARACAS, Venezuela – A state-run power company is urging its employees to seek divine intervention to help Venezuela resolve severe electricity shortages that prompted President Hugo Chavez to declare an energy emergency.
Edelca, one of the country’s state power companies, called on its workers to attend a prayer meeting this week titled: “Clamor to God for the National Electricity Sector.” The invitation, which includes a quote from the Bible, was sent to all the company’s employees Monday in a letter signed by Edelca’s president, Igor Gavidia Leon.
The letter was obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Chavez declared an energy emergency this week, announcing that his socialist government will punish businesses and industries that use what the government considers excessive amounts of electricity, and give discounts to those that cut consumption.
Under the plan, large businesses and factories must cut electricity consumption 20 percent or face sanctions, including 24- to 48-hour shutdowns and hefty increases in electricity rates. Starting Wednesday, the government also prohibited illuminated billboards on city streets and highways.
The energy-saving initiative also targets ordinary Venezuelans who use more than 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month — an estimated 24 percent of all residential consumers, according to Chavez.
The plan is aimed at easing the energy shortages that Chavez blames on a monthslong drought caused by the El Nino phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean. A lack of rain has caused water levels to drop to critical lows behind the Guri Dam, which supplies roughly 70 percent of Venezuela’s electricity.
Government opponents claim the shortages are also a result of the president’s failure to invest sufficiently in electricity production to meet growing demand over the past decade.