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Latino Daily News

Wednesday January 12, 2011

Chávez: Pay Past Due Electricity Bills, or be Left in the Dark

Chávez: Pay Past Due Electricity Bills, or be Left in the Dark

Photo: Hugo Chavez Cuts Electricity

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

The government of Venezuela gave an ultimate to mayors, governors and every state-run company in the nation to pay past-due electricity bills, before being shut down and left in the dark, in a move to decrease waste and balance government accounts.

Electricity Minister Ali Rodriguez said that funds collected last year by the state run utility company Corpolec covered only half the company’s payroll.

“The debt these organizations have is close to 4 billion bolivars ($930 million),” Rodríguez said. “We are toughening up bill collecting, and have ordered to cut off those institutions that don’t catch up on their payments.”

The government of Hugo Chavez nationalized the electricity sector in 2007, along with hundreds of companies also taken over as part of Chávez’s way to fund a socialist economy.

“One of the objectives is to raise collection to cover the operational costs of the national electricity system, not only the payroll,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said Venezuela, the continent’s top oil exporter, is also the South America’s highest per capita energy consumer, even above more industrially developed countries such as Argentina, Chile and Brazil, and that low prices and weak enforcement encourage wasteful usage and theft of power supplies.

“This shows a high level of energy wastage. There have been achievements, a good part of the population is now saving energy but more is needed,” he said.

Some Venezuelan political analysts believe the government might be considering to further devaluate its currency, the bolivar, and to raise electricity prices to help balance its accounts.