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Venezuela Declares 90-Day Electricity 'Emergency'

  • Reuters

An electric pole in Caracas, Venezuela (2013 photo)

An electric pole in Caracas, Venezuela (2013 photo)

President Nicolas Maduro's government declared a 90-day "emergency'' in Venezuela's electricity sector on Tuesday to speed up infrastructure work and equipment imports needed to prevent politically-contentious power cuts.

Officials have blamed periodic blackouts on sabotage and excessive consumption, while critics say the sector is suffering from poor management and inefficiency following the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez's nationalization of the sector.

Maduro, who won a vote to succeed his former mentor Chavez this month, has promised a government of "efficiency'' to tackle day-to-day problems like power outages plaguing the South American nation's 29 million people, especially in the provinces.

A decree in the official Gazette ordered state power company Corpolec to adopt "all technical and economic'' measures necessary to maintain electricity services, and authorized the army to guard key installations against vandalism and attacks.''

Power rationing has returned to some states, reviving memories of a prolonged crisis in the sector in 2010 that weighed on Chavez's popularity at the time.

Saying Venezuela now had the highest per capita consumption in Latin America, Maduro has announced a new national "Electricity Mission'' to stabilize the sector.

"If we don't balance this investment in generation with more rational use of energy, it's difficult to keep a system like this stable,'' said his newly appointed Electricity Minister Jesse Chacon, explaining the measures and calling for a nationwide electricity-saving drive.