Venezuela president Nicolas Maduro.
Yamil Lage—AFP/Getty Images
By Kerry Close
April 7, 2016

It sounds like a worker’s dream come true: a federally-mandated three-day weekend.

Unfortunately, the country where this policy is going into effect, Venezuela, is resorting to the new holiday scheme as a result of an extended drought that has pushed water supply to critically low levels at hydro-generation plants. In an effort to save electricity, the nation’s president, Nicolas Maduro, announced that public sector employees will have every Friday in April and May off from work, Bloomberg News reported. It isn’t clear if the mandate also applies to private sector workers.

The measure comes as part of a larger plan to conserve energy, which will be unveiled in its entirety on Thursday. Other points might ask large electricity users like shopping malls and hotels to generate their own power for nine hours a day, while heavy industries may be called upon to slash consumption by 20%. “This plan for 60 days, for two months, will allow the country to get through the most difficult period with the most risk,” Maduro said on Venezuelan state television Wednesday.

The Friday holiday initiative is not the first effort Maduro has made to combat the drought, which he blames on global warming and an El Niño weather system in the Pacific Ocean. Last month, he shut down the country for a week during the Easter holiday, giving workers an additional three days off. These measures reportedly saved nearly 22 centimeters of water at a dam that supplies up to 75% of electricity in the capital city of Caracas.

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Electricity is not the only basic need in short supply in the oil-dependent Latin American nation. Venezuela turned to food rationing in 2014 due to a confluence of economic struggles. Falling oil prices, coupled with a complex currency regime that fails to provide dollars that importers need to pay for basic goods, caused the government to place a limit on the amount of staple groceries they’re able to purchase, making essentials like diapers and milk hard to come by.

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