The time in Venezuela is four and a half hours behind UTC or Coordinated Universal Time, the newer and more correct version of GMT or Greenwich Mean Time. This means that during the winter time, when Daylight Saving Time does not apply, if the time is 9 am in New York and 2 pm in London, in Venezuela it would be 9.30am.
The time zone is often called Venezuelan Standard Time or VET and legally is known as Hora Legal de Venezuela or HLV. Venezuela’s unique time zone is half an hour ahead of its western neighbour, Colombia, and half an hour behind its neighbour on the eastern side, Guyana. Brazil is on the other side of Venezuela’s southern frontier and, like Guyana, is half an hour ahead. Between 1965 and December 2007 Venezuela was .
So why has Venezuela got a time zone all to itself? In August 2007, after the country’s time had been in sync with Guyana and the western part of Brazil for 42 years, President Hugo Chavez decided that not all Venezuelans were getting enough sunlight.
Venezuelan school children start school at 6am or 7am so they have to wake up as early as 5am to get ready in time. Adult Venezuelans are also early risers, especially in the great metropolis of Caracas which has huge suburbs and lots of traffic. Caraqueños (Caracas residents) who live on the outskirts of the city usually have to get out of bed really early to start their long commute to work.
Venezuelans in the west of the country suffered the most. A meridian line goes right through the middle of Venezuela and the -4 UTC time only applied to eastern regions of the country, where cities like Cumana and Puerto La Cruz are located. This left school kids and commuters in the west of the country, in places like Maracaibo and Merida, having to get up before dawn to get to work or school.
It was decided that instead of having two time zones – one for the east and one for the west of the country – there would be a happy medium. Thus the singular Hora Legal de Veenzuela was created. “While there is light, we will be in it,” said a government minister in 2007 and the country reverted to the time zone it used to have before 1964.
Critics said at the time that the change was unnecessary and President Chavez just wanted to antogonise his nemesis, former US President George W. Bush.
Lead image: CC image courtesy of Gabriel S. Delgado C on Flickr