Seven hours of queuing and more expensive petrol: the ordeal of filling the tank in Venezuela

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Venezuela’s gasoline shortage, which had eased until recently, intensified across much of the nation this December, just as it marked the 20th anniversary of an oil strike that forced the country, then the world’s fifth largest oil exporter, to import fuel, a need that persists today.

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Scarcity created long queues of trucks to load petrol at service stations, a scenario which, in the meantime, takes Venezuelans back to December 2002, when the internal distribution of fuel was compromised after the leaders of the state-owned PDVSA joined a general strike promoted by the opposition against then-President Hugo Chávez .

In the oil state of Zulia (northwest), José Hernández, a 50-year-old paramedic who was in line to fill an ambulance tank, recalled that the shortage during the strike was “catastrophic,” almost as bad is “living in the moment”.

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“I think (the queues) are almost the same, because I come from Sabaneta (another area of ​​Maracaibo) and all the gas stations have collapsed”, the man, carrying almost four hours in line, in which he still had thirty vehicles ahead.

In Maracaibo, the capital of this border region with Colombia, the fuel shortage – which had eased in the last year – began to worsen at the beginning of this month, as evidenced by the queues of over 200 vehicleswhich can take more than three hours to reach the pumps, where, moreover, the supply is limited to 40 liters per car.

Shortages and higher prices

Joel Sandrea, 49, who has been in line for more than seven hours, feels the current situation is “hit harder” than it was 20 years ago, having to pay $0.50 a liter for petrol, which was subsidized two decades ago and much lower price.

“Silver (money) is not enough for you at all, (therefore) it hits harder because you have to sacrifice 20 dollars (for 40 litres) which you can use very easily at home for any need,” he added.

Thus, according to economist and oil analyst Pilar Navarro, Venezuelans once again face a related shortage a temporary stop at the largest refinery in the country, Amuaydue to a breakdown, which PDVSA has not confirmed.

Rely on imports

In December 2002, oil production fell to 757,000 barrels per day (bpd) after registering a level of about 2.9 million bpd the previous month, according to data released at the time by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Today crude oil production is even below the level it fell to 20 years agoclosing in November at 693,000 bpd, according to the international organization.

The Venezuelan oil industry, after being one of the strongest in the world, has collapsed, especially in the last five years, due to lack of investment, reduction of skilled human resources, management, corruption and, more recently, sanctions imposed by the United States, according to specialists.

Navarro stressed that the production of refined products has gone from 965,000 barrels per day in 2002 -before the strike- “to being practically non-existent in recent years”, so the country has stopped “covering (in its entirety) domestic demand of fuels and export”, and began to “depend on imports of thinners and gasoline”, which mainly come from Iran.

Medley Advisors analyst for Latin America indicated that the refining system is currently operating at 15% of its installed capacity -1.30 million barrels per day-, and supplies the domestic market between 110,000 and 140,000 barrels per day when national demand reaches 200,000 barrels per day.

Source: EFE

B. C

Source: Clarin

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