Venezuela has started shutting down gasoline stations across the country as a shortage of fuels has prompted rationing, Bloomberg reports.
According to an unnamed source who spoke to Bloomberg, the government will leave only a few stations open to be managed by the army. These, however, will only service medical, food transport, and utility vehicles.
Venezuela, which has been fighting spiraling inflation and a prolonged collapse of its oil industry, has now faced another challenge: the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the last two weeks, Bloomberg reports, the country has had 70 confirmed cases. While not as many as other countries have seen, these could be just the beginning, and many are worrying the government may not be prepared enough to tackle this new challenge.
There are 1,600 fuel stations in Venezuela, and this is not the first gasoline shortage the country has experienced since its economy went downhill amid the last oil price collapse, the tumble accelerated substantially by U.S. sanctions targeting its oil industry.
Last year in May the suspension of gasoline imports from the U.S. led to shortages as local production also slumped because of the lack of diluents—also imported—to make the extra heavy Venezuelan crude easier to refine. Since then, the gasoline shortages seem to have become chronic and will now only worsen.
The Bloomberg sources did not say whether the shutdowns will extend to the capital Caracas, which in the past has been spared the worst effects of the crisis to keep citizen disgruntlement at bay.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has continued to step up the pressure on the Maduro government. Last month, Washington sanctioned the trading arm of Russia’s Rosneft for dealing in Venezuelan oil. Now, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, the administration has opened criminal investigations against two former PdVSA officials in preparation for another round of sanctions.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com