Venezuela’s Island of Time

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

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