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Opinion and Analysis: Politics | Social Programs

“Crazy” Time Change for Venezuela Sets Clocks Back to 1964

Caracas, September 25, 2007, ( - Venezuela's decision to change its time zone by turning the clock back half an hour has sparked a tirade of criticisms in the international corporate media ridiculing the idea. One may wonder why a relatively small policy change has sparked such a vitriolic response. After all, this is the time zone Venezuela had until 1964 and many countries regularly adopt daylight savings time each year or change their time zone without making international headlines.

The key thrust of the media campaign appears to be an attempt to portray Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as "crazy," as part of a broader strategy of internationally isolating Venezuela, which is carrying out a process of progressive social change in direct contradiction to the interests of global corporate and media elites.

As the Minister of Science and Technology, Hector Navarro, responding to these criticisms said, "In certain countries in the North as well as in the South: the United States, Canada, and the whole of Europe, they have one hour in winter and one hour in summer... This issue should not be traumatic, its necessity is justified by the search for alternatives to improve the quality of life of the population."
The proposal, made originally by the Ministry of Science and Technology, involves turning the clock back half an hour from +4.00 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), to +4.30GMT, the time zone Venezuela had until December 31, 1964, when the current time zone was adopted. The change was due to take place on September 17 and then on September 24, but has since been postponed until December 31, to allow for compliance with international organizations, such as the International Office of Weights and Measures.

Navarro said that at midnight of December 31, or the following morning, Venezuelans would have to change their clock back half an hour. He also said that the government would carry out an information campaign in the lead-up to the change and provide a free hotline for people to call to verify the exact time.

Navarro explained that the rationale for the time change is that a meridian line passes directly through the middle of Venezuela, and the current time of +4.00GMT, which corresponds to the east of the country, is set as the time zone for the entire country, meaning that school children and workers in the west of the country are required to get up well before sunrise.

It is unnatural to wake up before sunrise, Navarro argues. "All living beings, from plants to more evolved animals like human beings, have a metabolism that accords with the sunlight. When human beings, that are adapted to function in daylight, are obliged to begin their activities in darkness, this distorts the natural program of their system." Waking up with the sun would allow Venezuelans to be more productive in their daily activities, the Minister assured.

Navarro explained that to deal with this issue they are proposing to turn the clock back only half an hour to +4.30 GMT, rather than adopt two different time zones for the east and west of the country.

The Vice Minister of Science and Technology, Luis Marcano, said the new time change would also complement the territorial reorganization of the country proposed in the constitutional reform presented by President Chavez, which will be voted on through popular referendum on December 2.

Marcano explained that the decision to change the time in Venezuela would be combined with other measures, such as the establishment of different hours for the commencement of educational, productive, and service activities, which would have the effect of reducing traffic congestion in the cities.

These measures, combined with a new proposal in the constituional reform to reduce the working day to six hours, would contribute to the rationalisation and harmonization of the daily activites of the general population the Vice Minister assured.

A poll of 100 people conducted in Caracas by polling firm RDS In Market C.A, published in El Universal, revealed that the majority of those polled were indifferent to the time change, with 72% saying they did not consider there would be any significant advantages or disadvantages. However, 11 % said a benefit of the change, would be that they would arrive at their destination on time.