The government has order three extra day of holiday over the Easter period as a means of reducing electricity usage in the country.
Infrastructure, including the electricity grid, is in such poor shape that President Nicolas Maduro extended the Easter holiday to five days this week to address a drought affecting hydroelectric dams. Malls, banks and many supermarkets have closed, or have cut hours.
"Venezuela is going through the worst crisis in its 200-year history,” said Jean Daudelin, a professor and Latin American specialist at Carleton University currently on sabbatical in South America. “The economy is in shambles and the political system is paralyzed.”
The economy contracted by 10 per cent in 2015, according to the International Monetary Fund, and is expected to shrink by a similar amount again this year. Oil revenues have declined, not just because of low prices but due to years of underinvestment and declining productivity. Inflation is estimated at 200 per cent - the highest anywhere in the world.
“We had to go to a black market supplier, where the prices are higher, to find oil and white corn flour to make arepas,” Harold Schott, an industrial engineer, said after trying to shop Thursday in Maracay, a city 120 kilometres west of Caracas.
“Inflation is so bad that cheese costs 10 times what it did three months ago. My car battery died a week ago and I cannot find a replacement.”
The military continues to back Maduro, who replaced former president Hugo Chavez after he died in 2013. Venezuela has a long history of military intervention; Chavez himself led an attempted coup in 1992 before becoming president in 1999, and he survived a coup attempt in 2002.