November 16, 2009

Venezuela Will Employ “˜Cloud Bombing’ To Relieve Drought

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he will join Cuban scientists on flights to "bomb clouds" to generate rain amid a severe drought that has caused much public anger over water and electricity rationing.

Chavez said the Cubans had already arrived in Venezuela, and were planning to fly custom equipped aircraft above the Orinoco river.

"I'm going in a plane; any cloud that crosses me, I'll zap it so that it rains," Chavez said late Saturday during a ceremony with the families of five Cubans convicted of spying in the U.S.

Many nations have so-called cloud seeding programs, which seek to alter weather patterns. 

Although the effectiveness of these practices is disputed, one common method involves firing silver iodine at clouds.  China employs rockets loaded with the chemical to spur rainfall in arid regions.

Chavez did not disclose which technology the Cubans would be using.

Venezuela has experienced water and electricity shortages in November after a drought caused by the El Nino weather pattern resulted in severely low water levels at several reservoirs.  

Some have criticized the Venezuelan government for inadequate planning after the nation was forced to impose strict water rationing in the capital Caracas and power rationing in other parts of the country. Chavez has already asked Venezuelans to take three-minute showers to conserve water.

Venezuela produces much of its power from hydroelectric projects, including the vast El Guri dam near the Orinoco.

The oil-exporting nation provides Cuba with subsidized oil, and Chavez is a close friend of the communist island's former leader Fidel Castro.

Chavez said Castro, who has not been seen publicly since undergoing intestinal surgery in 2006, was in excellent health.  He invited Castro to take part in a trade conference he is hosting next month in Havana.


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