Usually, the advent of daylight saving time creates few problems. But when President Jos'e Napoleo'n Duarte instituted it for the first time earlier this month, the one-hour time change caused widespread confusion and protest.
Employees showed up late for work, people missed buses that had already left, and parents complained about waking their children in the dark.
In much of the countryside, people are merely ignoring the May 3 time change, leaving their watches at the old hour, which they call the ``time of God.''
``People refuse to reset their watches. The priest still says mass at 6 o'clock - the old time - and the bells ring the same time they always did,'' says an American missionary living in a small town.
``The only problem,'' he adds, ``comes with buses and schools which run on the new time.'' Then people do some mental calculations to convert ``the new time'' or ``Duarte's time,'' back to ``the old time'' that they still go by.
In El Salvador's highly polarized political climate, even something as mundane as daylight saving time becomes a political issue. The rightist business sector and political parties have attacked the change. They say it won't save the energy it is supposed to and it is another example of the government's incompetence.
The left-wing labor opposition condemns the time change as an attempt by the government to ``increment the economic resources destined for the [seven-year-old civil] war.''
``This has created quite a furor,'' one European diplomat said.
The government says it changed the time because the country needs to save electricity. Hydroelectric dams normally produce most of El Salvador's power. But a drought has lowered water levels, forcing the electric utility to turn on emergency generators that burn expensive diesel fuel. And guerrilla sabotage of power lines has compounded the problem.
The government began rationing electricity on March 9. Power was initially cut by two hours a day and then increased to three hours.
The power cuts have been unpopular. Businesses complain about lost production and the high cost of running backup generators.