Chavez ends electricity rationing in Venezuela

Chavez ended six months of national electricity rationing on Thursday in a move likely to boost his popularity ahead of legislative elections in September.

Chavez ends electricity rationing in Venezuela

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ended six months of national electricity rationing on Thursday in a move likely to boost his popularity ahead of legislative elections in September.

Electricity cuts of up to six hours a day were imposed on most parts of the Latin American OPEC nation in January, hindering efforts to climb out of a year-long recession and pushing the socialist leader's support below 50 percent.

"From this moment, the rationing plan is suspended in all parts of the country," Chavez said in a televised speech.

The news was a surprise because it came just two days after the government's Official Gazette said the rationing program would be extended for a further two months.

Recent rains have raised levels at its main reservoirs after months of drought exacerbated high consumption and distribution problems.

There remains a lack of generating capacity. The government has been pushing ahead with a plan to install 5,000 megawatts (MW) of mostly thermal generators. But by mid-May, just 680 MW had been set up.

The strategy will weigh heavily on the state's finances after the Venezuelan economy bucked the global recovery trend and contracted 5.8 percent in the first quarter of the year.

As well as planning to spend $5 billion this year on importing the equipment, the generators will use costly fuel that the nation would rather be exporting to paying customers.

The government still plans to import the generators, and Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez has said Venezuela will need an additional 100,000 barrels of diesel per day once all the new thermoelectric plants were up and running.

Experts have cautioned that the arrival of the rains could prove to be a double-edged sword for Chavez, since the temporary relief of refilling reservoirs could lead the public and officials to relax essential energy-saving measures.

On Thursday, Electricity Minister Ali Rodriguez said Venezuelans should not return to old profligate consumption habits.

Reuters

Last Mod: 11 Haziran 2010, 16:10
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