Venezuelan public workers woke up Wednesday to newspaper headlines that told them to stay home.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced in a televised address Tuesday that the government is slashing additional working hours for the country's 2.8 million public workers in a bid to save energy, reducing the working week from four to two days. Earlier this month, the government had already reduced the working days from five to four, telling public workers not to come in on Fridays.
"From tomorrow, for at least two weeks, we are going to have Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays as non-working days for the public sector," Maduro said. Workers will nonetheless be paid for a full five-day week.
"Non-Working Wednesdays and Thursdays," was the front-page headline on Caracas-based Ultimas Noticias.
The water level in the nation's largest hydroelectric dam — providing for about two-thirds of the nation's energy needs — has fallen to near its minimum operating level due to the severe drought. While officials blame the weather phenomenon El Niñofor the shortages, critics point to an ineffective and corrupt government.
A fully paid two-day working week may sound like a workers' paradise, but it constitutes another blow to the country's faltering economy that has led to shortages of basic items such as milk and medicine, soaring prices and long lines at shops.