Venezuela's Island of Time

Toying with time

| August 30, 2007

Since being elected president of Venezuela in 1998, Hugo Chavez has turned many heads with his sweeping policy changes and fiery rhetoric. Now, he's going so far as to turn back the clock -- one half hour to be exact. The South American country has been on Eastern Standard Time, but as of this Saturday, Reuters reports the republic will be in a zone all its own.

The time change is designed to create 'a more fair distribution of the sunrise,' according to Hector Navarro, Venezuela's Science and Technology Minister. Navarro believes the move will help the nation's poor, who often have to rise before daylight. He also emphasizes the health benefits of the change, noting that 'very rigorous scientific studies have determined that... the metabolic activity of living beings is synchronized with the sun's light.'

Many in the United States don't believe the change is entirely humanitarian. 'This isn't about the poor,' writes Katharine P. Jose of the Huffington Post. 'This is about making a break with the political and symbolic history of the international time system.'

Although the half-hour change may seem arbitrary, a look at history shows that countries have setting their own time for centuries. China, which should span several time zones, insists on the entire country ticking along as one. Nepal runs 15 minutes ahead of India, and Afghanistan prefers to let its longitudinal partner Pakistan have a half-hour head start. In the United States time-tinkering is well-known. According to National Geographic, the government decreed changes in daylight-saving time as recently as 2005 in order to maximize the amount of daylight during Americans' most active hours. US Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Mosley told National Geographic that daylight saving cut energy consumption and traffic accidents. In 1986, the reasons were a bit less high-minded; Congress extolled the economic virtues of daylight savings as it 'expanded economic opportunity through extension of daylight hours to peak shopping hours.'

 Go there >>Venezuela to Change Time Zone by 30 Min. in Sept.

Go there, too >> The History of Daylight Saving Time