Coronavirus and Gasoline Shortage: Ticking Time Bomb in Venezuela

At least a thousand motorists decided to violate the social isolation norms in the state of Carabobo, in the center of the country, to go to a gas station

The situation has become so unsustainable that Venezuelans now buy smuggled gasoline from Colombia (EFE).

Spanish – Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Venezuela is facing unprecedented chaos due to the shortage of gasoline. Thousands of Venezuelans have decided to violate the quarantine to find fuel.

At least a thousand motorists decided to violate the social isolation in the state of Carabobo, in the center of the country, to go to a gas station. The site became a dangerous setting for the spread of the virus due to the massive crowds.

At the same time, at other service stations in the country, Venezuelans, including police, military personnel, doctors, and people who provide essential services, also queued up for miles to buy fuel. This situation leaves thousands of citizens vulnerable.

The shortage of gasoline is not new for Venezuelans. Although Nicolás Maduro attributes it to the “tightening” of sanctions imposed by the United States, the truth is that the shortages have emerged sporadically for years due to the precarious state of Venezuela’s refineries and low oil production.

Of six refineries in the South American country, only two are operating at 6% of their capacity, said economist Rafael Quiroz.

The situation has become so unsustainable that Venezuelans now buy gasoline by smuggling it from Colombia. So the country with the largest oil reserves in the world is now illegally importing fuel for resale.

“Imported gasoline can be identified by its color. It is lighter than local fuel. The contraband suppliers sell five liters of it for 10 USD, a dollar less than what the same amount of Venezuelan gasoline costs,” says a report by the Voice of America.

Venezuelans claim that the National Guard is selling fuel at 2 USD per liter, which translates into up to 100 USD to fill a tank of a medium-size vehicle. Meanwhile, the monthly minimum wage in the country isn’t more than 10 USD.

A New York Times story also refers to the fuel crisis: “Venezuela went from having the world’s cheapest consumer gasoline prices to having among the most expensive — 15 USD a gallon (3.96 USD per liter).”

Maduro’s regime is in charge of the distribution and production of gasoline. Chavismo manages refineries and exports. So only the dictatorship is responsible for what happens to the fuel and its severe scarcity.

“The quarantine has reduced gasoline consumption. If we were under normal conditions, it would have been impossible to supply even the limited amount of gas that we have received so far. This situation gives them time to evaluate their options,” said economist José Toro Hardy to the newspaper El Nacional.

Desperate Maduro wants to privatize gasoline

According to information reported by HispanoPost, Nicolás Maduro’s regime is considering privatizing the sale of gasoline in the country.

“The proposal, which has been discussed by the board of directors of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), seeks to find a solution to the critical situation of fuel supply,” a source associated with the fuel sector told the news outlet.

HispanoPost points out the possibility that the private sector would purchase the fuel since they are exempt from U.S. sanctions, and would be in charge of distribution and sales across the country.

According to Toro Hardy, the tyranny would seek to apply the same model of Venezuelan inns to gas stations.

“The country is not in a position to continue handling something that yields such great losses. But they will surely award service stations to their ‘friends,’ independent of PDVSA and the state so that they are not subject to sanctions,” Toro Hardy told El Nacional.

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