Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has declared an "electricity emergency" in the oil-rich nation, saying the country is facing the worst drought in a century.
Mr. Chavez made the announcement Monday as he inaugurated a new radio program, "Suddenly Chavez," which he says could be broadcast at any time of the day or night.
He said the decree would make confronting the electrical power crisis the government's top priority.
Discontent has been growing in Venezuela over chronic shortages of electricity and water, along with a sharp devaluation of its currency, the bolivar. The country is in the midst of an economic recession and is trying to fight double-digit inflation.
In recent years, Mr. Chavez has nationalized major companies across a range of industries - from oil, steel and cement to electricity and communications.
Critics have accused the populist leader of trying to model Venezuela after communist-led Cuba, but Mr. Chavez has said he is working to improve the lives of the country's impoverished majority.
Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.