President Hugo Chavez inaugurated a folksy new radio talk-show on Monday by declaring an "electricity emergency" in oil-rich Venezuela.
Despite its huge crude reserves, the South American OPEC member relies on hydro-electricity for 70 percent of its power needs, and a drought has hit supply since late 2009.
"We are ready to decree the electricity emergency, because it really is an emergency," Chavez said in the first edition of a show on state radio air waves called "Suddenly Chavez."
A formal decree of emergency would enable the government to speed up moves to confront the power crisis, which range from stricter rationing and more thermoelectric generation, to the "seeding" of clouds in an attempt to produce rain.
"I call on the whole country: 'Switch off the lights.' We are facing the worst drought Venezuela has had in almost 100 years," Chavez said in what appeared to be a new radio version of his long-running "Hello Mr. President" TV show on Sundays.
Chavez said the program would always be preceded by the sound of a harp playing local folk-music. "When you hear the pluck of a harp on the radio, maybe Chavez is coming. It's suddenly, at any time, maybe midnight, maybe early morning."
While provincial cities and villages are without light for hours at a time since rolling blackouts began in January, an attempt to ration electricity in the capital Caracas last month caused chaos and protests, forcing Chavez to suspend it.
Energy Minister Ali Rodriguez, appointed after the previous minister was fired over the power crisis, said over the weekend that the country had achieved only a four percent cut in energy use in recent weeks, despite aiming for 20 percent.
Electricity demand has increased by 38 percent since 2003 to an average of 14,100 megawatts in 2009. The government calculates the current deficit as 1,600 megawatts.
Chavez declares electricity emergency in Venezuela
Chavez inaugurated a folksy new radio talk-show on Monday by declaring an "electricity emergency" in oil-rich Venezuela.