Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said on April 6 that public employees will have to take longer weekends because of the country’s power crisis.
Maduro announced he would sign an order that will require state workers to observe Fridays as holidays for 60 days. It’s unclear how the measure will affect systems like schools and hospitals. The president said the order applies to all public workers who can take the day off without impacting production.
He hopes the decree will reduce the use of electricity by at least 20 percent.
In a tweet from Electricity Minister Luis Motta Domínguez, a before-and-after picture shows the decrease of the Guri Dam’s water level over a 5-day period.
La diferencia de fotos es de 5 días. Lo que estaba bajo las aguas, hoy casi se pasa a pie! El Niño NO es juego! pic.twitter.com/wqsP4KV1M9
— LUIS MOTTA DOMINGUEZ (@LMOTTAD) April 6, 2016
Officials have been alerting the public for weeks that the water level behind the nation’s largest dam has fallen to almost its minimum running level. Almost 70 percent of Venezuela’s electricity comes from the Guri Dam. If water levels are too low the dam will be forced to shut down completely.
Maduro’s cabinet blames the low water situation on the weather phenomenon El Niño and sabotage acts by enemies, but experts say the crisis could have been avoided if the government would have invested in maintenance and in the construction of thermoelectric plants.
Along with giving employees a Friday furlough, Maduro had other suggestions. He told people to make minor changes in their routines, like turning off their air conditioners in the tropical weather, and air-drying clothes instead of using electrical driers. He also urged women to stop using blow dryers.
“I always think a woman looks better when she just runs her fingers through her hair and lets it dry naturally,” he said. “It’s just an idea I have.”
People went on Twitter and ridiculed the long weekend and Maduro’s suggestions.
“The geniuses at the presidential palace are increasing days off to resolve the electricity chaos. To really solve the problem, clearly you have to increase them to 365 days a year,” tweeted Henry Ramos, leader of the country’s opposition-controlled Congress.
A journalist on Twitter asked Venezuelan women if they were willing to drop the hair dryers to save electricity and comb their hair with their hands like Madura had asked.
“I think that none of them,” said a female twitter user.
“Venezuelan women are vain by nature, we can’t go out to the street without a good blow dry and makeup.”
Another twitter user said that the president forgot to ask the people of Venezuela to stop taking showers to save water.
@monterocnn faltó pedir que no nos bañemos, para ahorrar el agua también!!
— laura messina (@bambinamess) April 7, 2016
Others criticized the government’s call to save electricity while having plenty of access to oil.
#Venezuela has largest proven oil reserves in the world. Yet Maduro Government just decreed Fridays a “Holiday” due to energy crisis
— Mariana_Atencio (@marianaatencio) April 7, 2016
People said the new measure would not do much, since workers will simply go home and still use electronics and lights. Electricity in the country is free, so Venezuelans have little motivation to conserve energy.
The decree is not the first time Maduro has enacted a energy-saving tactic. In March, workers were given a full week off, and in February mall hour schedules were reduced nationwide.
The South American nation has been struggling with blackouts for years, even the president was affected by one when he was delivering a live televised speech to the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.