CARACAS, Venezuela, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Severe shortages of electricity and water pose a growing risk to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian revolution that is powered largely by the country's petroleum revenues.
Venezuela is sensitive to any suggestion that the shortages pose a risk to its political security, especially if prognoses of trouble emanate from the political opposition or, worse, critics or analysts abroad.
The conviction that enemies of the Bolivarian revolution are out to get him remains strong within the Chavez circle and is reflected frequently in government pronouncements circulated by the state-run media.
This week Chavez exhorted Venezuelans to steel themselves against further shortages and rationing of utilities. The shortages are the most serious challenge facing his Bolivarian revolution since a spate of press criticism earlier in the summer, to which Chavez responded by shutting down most of the privately owned media organizations.
Faced with the shortages, the government has reacted by targeting business, accusing industries of wasting resources through inefficient management of energy and water.
Analysts who contest that interpretation and point instead to government sector mismanagement, a prolonged drought and rising demand cannot easily express themselves, because the media that aired their views have shut down.
In the most direct response to the shortages yet, Chavez himself went on air to warn industries they would have their utilities cut off if they did not check wastage. For citizens fumbling in the dark due to power cuts, Chavez advised the use of a torch.
"If you get up at three in the morning to use the toilet, use a torch instead of turning the light on; that's enough light, you don't need more. Just leave the torch by the bed, it's that simple," Chavez said during an emergency Cabinet meeting, broadcast live.
He advised Venezuelans to get into the habit of showering for no more than three minutes.
Industry sources said that power generation plants nationalized by Chavez in 2007 needed not only new infusions of capital but also better management and due diligence to ensure their performance was competitive and made the best use of resources. Venezuelan opposition says very few investments have been made in the power sector since Chavez took office in 1999 after a landslide election victory the previous year.
Chavez plans to personally make random surprise visits to factories and has warned those found wasting electricity or water will be punished summarily with closures.
He has also offered advice to shopping malls to save on power or generate their own.
Although officials say the rationing of water is for a six-month period, until the next rainy season, the recent experience of drought in Venezuela has raised concerns that water rationing may be prolonged.
Government scientists have blamed the dry spell on the El Nino phenomenon. However, critics say the shortages can be better managed and punitive measures will only cost the government popularity across the social spectrum.