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Venezuelans Surprised by Rolling Blackouts

A man cooks near lit candles at his home during a power cut in San Cristobal, in the state of Tachira, Venezuela, April 25, 2016

Some Venezuelans were surprised Monday by rolling four-hour blackouts that the government says will last 40 days, in response to a drought that has rendered hydroelectric power plants nearly useless.

President Nicolas Maduro's government announced power rationing on Monday in 18 of Venezuela's 24 states. The capital, Caracas, has been spared.

But residents complained to news media that they were not warned of the cutoffs, leaving homes with refrigerators full of spoiled food and businesses with no way to complete electronic transactions.

Maduro's government says the El Nino weather phenomenon has caused the power shortages, but his critics blame economic mismanagement and the currently low price of oil on which the Venezuelan economy depends.

Maduro has put in place some power-saving measures such as shorter work weeks and a time zone shift to make more use of daylight. He has also encouraged people to stop blow-drying their hair and ironing clothing, until the power shortage is over.