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2010-03-24

Venezuela orders excessive energy users to be without power

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CARACAS, Venezuela – More than 40 hotels, restaurants, office buildings and other businesses had their power cut off on March 22 because they failed to cut their electricity use by 20% to help the country pull out of its energy crisis. Caracas’ state electrical utility said it ceased power to 42 businesses for 24 hours because they had not complied with the government’s recent orders. The buildings that were going to be punished were notified, which enabled hotel and restaurant managers to inform their guests of the impending darkness. However, several business owners said the punishment was excessive since they had made a concerted effort to comply with the government’s directions. Besides, Venezuela wouldn’t be in a power crisis if President Hugo Chávez’s administration had strengthened the Guri dam and the power grid to handle the growing demand, the president’s critics claim. “They are punishing those who are not to blame. The government is to blame,” said Esteban Hofle, who manages a small department store that is on the next list of businesses that will be in the dark for a day. Guillermo Ovalles, who leads an electrical committee for Venezuela's major business chamber, Fedecámaras, said the blackouts are unfair. He said many businesses already have turned off air conditioning and reduced the number of hours they are open in an effort to comply with the government’s orders. [The Associated Press (Venezuela), 03/22/2010; Noticias24 (Venezuela), 03/22/2010; El Universal (Venezuela), 03/22/2010]

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