Yesterday, Aristóbulo announced the most jaw-dropping, Chigüire-worthy energy-saving measure yet: the work week for the public sector will be reduced to two days. With the exception of staff performing “those tasks that are fundamental and necessary”, the vicepresident said, public workers will only work Monday and Tuesday. What constitutes a “fundamental and necessary task”, sabrá Dios.
On top of that, children will have no school on Fridays. Apparently education is not “fundamental or necessary” enough.
Three things here: first, home consumption accounts for over 50% of the country’s total electricity demand, meaning that home (the place where, um, people tend to hang out at when they’re not working) is where most electricity is consumed. Second, the State is by far the largest employer in Venezuela; there are over three million public workers in the country. Third, the Vice-president for the electric sector, Freddy Brito, publicly recognized that extending the Semana Santa holiday “did not have the expected impact”.
Long story short: they’re sending three million people to the place they consume the most electricity, as part of a plan to reduce electricity consumption, after they already told us they know doesn’t work.
At first glance, the measure makes absolutely no sense.
Unless it’s not really saving electricity they’re after. As Eugenio Martínez quickly pointed out, reducing the number of workdays in a week has a direct knock-on effect on the electoral calendar. CNE counts the days for many of its recall-related procedures in días hábiles. Think of it as public administration time, which is sort of like dog years, only not as cuddly.
The lapses for collecting and validating signatures, the allotted time to call for a referendum, etc., are calculated on the basis of public sector workdays. If, say, putting off a recall referendum until January 11, 2017, happened to be your top political priority at the moment, magically eliminating public sector workdays is a feature, not a bug.
How much damage is the government willing to inflict upon the people (and upon itself) in order to weaken the opposition’s recall plans?
It’s not even about how the country’s virtual paralysis will affect the already terminal economy; it’s about how the citizens will hurt. How many private businesses depend on the crowds that gather around ministries and other government buildings daily? How much more will workers have to spend on the meal they’ll now eat at home, instead of eating in workplace cafeterias? How long will it take to get a document legalized? Who will take care of the children whose parents are not public workers on Fridays?
All of which is to ask, really, how much longer can a society put up with a government this irresponsible before it falls apart completely?Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.