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IPFS News Link • Ecuador

Ecuador introduces three-day working week as it launches investigation into energy shortages

•, Simeon Tegel

Sudden blackouts began hitting the South American nation on Monday, prompting a furious reaction from president Daniel Noboa, who fired Andrea Arrobo, his energy minister.

Experts point to a drought, triggered by the El Niño weather phenomenon, with Ecuador and other Andean nations heavily reliant on hydroelectric dams harnessing mountain water runoff.

Mr Noboa has blamed the crisis on a combination of "environmental circumstances" and "unheard of acts of corruption and negligence".

In a statement released on Wednesday, the leader, whose approval rating is about 80 per cent thanks to his recent crackdown on the street gangs terrorising Ecuador, cited 22 "saboteurs" including Ms Arrobo, who he accused of hiding the looming energy crisis from him.

Ms Arrobo was replaced on an interim basis by Roberto Luque, the transport minister.

Colombia, which last week began rationing water in the capital Bogota, has also suspended energy supplies to Ecuador.

Meanwhile, the reservoir feeding Ecuador's Mazar hydroelectric dam was reported to be dry, while the nearby Paute Dam registered storage levels of just four per cent.

Mr Noboa declared the suspension of the five-day working week and ordered the attorney general's office to investigate the energy crisis.

Ecuador, like much of Latin America, has long been plagued by rampant corruption. However, Mr Noboa's speed in apportioning blame for the energy crisis has raised eyebrows, with critics already concerned about his apparent authoritarian streak.