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Venezuela orders two-day work week as electricity crisis worsens

Venezuela's public sector employees have been told to work only on Monday and Tuesday as the country's electricity crisis worsens.

President Nicolas Maduro announced that the government was slashing working hours for at least two weeks in a bid to save energy.

He said the water level behind the nation's largest dam has fallen to near its minimum operating level due to a severe drought. Experts say lack of planning and maintenance is also to blame.

The country's socialist government already gave nearly three million public workers Fridays off earlier this month, and on Monday initiated daily four-hour blackouts around the country.

The government is now extending the Friday holidays to grade school teachers, although it appears employees of public hospitals and state-run supermarkets will still have to work.

Venezuelans reacted with disbelief to the news that most public workers would hardly be going into the office.

Employees will be paid for the days on which they do not work. Some have been using their Fridays off to wait in lines to buy groceries and other goods.

Others have been going home to watch TV and run the air conditioning, leading critics to say the measure will do little to save energy.

Power outages have been a chronic problem in the country. Mr Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez promised to solve the problem in 2010, but little has improved.

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