Marin Mendez leaned a shoulder into his rusty Chevy Malibu, rolling it forward each time the line of cars inched closer to the pump. Waiting hours to fill up, he says, is the high cost he pays for gasoline that’s nearly free in socialist Venezuela.
“You line up to get your pension, line up to buy food, line up to pump your gas,” Mendez said after 40 minutes of waiting in the sweltering heat in Maracaibo — ironically the center of the country’s oil industry — and expecting to be there hours or days more. “I’ve had enough!” Lines of a mile or more to fuel up have plagued this western region of Venezuela for years, despite the country’s status as holder of the world’s largest oil reserves. Now, shortages threaten to spread countrywide as supplies of gasoline become even scarcer amid a raging struggle over political control of Venezuela.
The Trump administration hit Venezuela’s state-run oil firm PDVSA with sanctions in late January in a sweeping strategy aimed at forcing President Nicolas Maduro from power in favor of opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Doomsday predictions followed — mostly fueled by Maduro’s foes and U.S. officials — that Venezuela’s domestic gas supplies would last no more than a week or so. That hasn’t happened yet, but more misery is feared as expected shortages have economic implications far beyond longer gas lines, turning Venezuela’s crisis to a catastrophe.
“Crucially, it will lead to more shortages of food and basic goods,” said Diego Moya-Ocampos, an analyst with consulting firm IHS Global Insight.