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What Did Venezuela Use Before Candles?

Daniel Bier

Q: What did socialists use before candles?
A: Electricity.

It's an old joke, but unfortunately, dark humor is the reality in Venezuela. The socialist regime of Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro has created catastrophic shortages of toilet paperfood, medicine, comedy, beer, and electricity. (There is, of course, no shortage of its increasingly worthless paper money.)

Rationing and blackouts are a regular occurrence in the socialist country, but things have gotten so bad that Maduro has essentially ordered the entire country to close next week to "save" energy.

It's a desperate move brought on by a drought that has depleted Venezuela's hydroelectric capacity. Bloomberg reports:

Venezuela is shutting down for a week as the government struggles with a deepening electricity crisis.

President Nicolas Maduro gave everyone an extra three days off work next week, extending the two-day Easter holiday, according to a statement in the Official Gazette published late Tuesday. ...

The government has rationed electricity and water supplies across the country for months and urged citizens to avoid waste as Venezuela endures a prolonged drought that has slashed output at hydroelectric dams. The ruling socialists have blamed the shortage on the El Nino weather phenomena and “sabotage” by their political foes, while critics cite a lack of maintenance and poor planning. ...

Venezuela has long suffered rolling blackouts that cripple public services and leave citizens in the dark for days at a time. The extended break seeks to further ease demand on Venezuela’s strained power grid and follows a forced reduction of hours at shopping malls and public institutions.

In a free market, businesses would have had the incentive to make the necessary plans, repairs, and contingencies, and prices would rise to ensure that supply met demand — so if you really needed to flip a switch or turn a faucet, you would always be able to get power and water. Unfortunately, Venezuela has a surplus of regulators and planners, whose endless decrees and price controls and nationalizations have devastated the economy.

“We’re hoping, God willing, rains will come,” Maduro said in a national address Saturday. “Look, the saving is more than 40 percent when these measures are taken. We’re reaching a difficult place that we’re trying to manage.” ...

Last week, the energy minister warned that water levels at the Guri Dam, one of the country’s principal sources of power, had reached critical levels. On Wednesday, however, he insisted Venezuela’s grid was not on the verge of collapse, but implored the private sector to heed the president’s call.

“They can indirectly abide by the decree, it’s a matter of cooperating,” Electricity Minister Luis Motta Dominguez said in a interview broadcast on the Venevision network.

If history is any guide, whenever a socialist apparatchik insists something is not on the verge of collapse, it's time to duck and cover.

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