Venezuelan soldiers loyal to the country’s socialist dictatorship oversaw the rationing of fuel at service stations across Venezuela on Sunday, forcing angry drivers to wait for hours for gasoline in the oil-rich country.
Venezuela is home to the world’s largest known oil reserves.
According to a report from Reuters, dictator Nicolás Maduro ordered soldiers to manage the distribution of fuel, forcing long lines of vehicles to form in service stations in several regions on Sunday.
In the western city of San Cristóbal, near the Colombian border, members of the country’s National Guard wore anti-riot gear as they limited gasoline sales to 40 liters (10.6 gallons) per vehicle, roughly equivalent to a full tank for a compact vehicle, but well below capacity for SUV’s, 4×4’s and other large vehicles.
In some parts of the city, angry protesters vented their frustration by blocking streets with garbage, metal barriers, and tree branches. “How can a country function like this?” Antonio Tamariz, 58, told the agency, having waited days for fuel to return his truck back to his farm. “No one has explained why there are so many lines for gasoline. I think the government is losing control of this.”
In Maracaibo state, once considered the epicenter of the country’s oil industry, soldiers limited drivers to just 20 liters (5.3 gallons) of gasoline. “They have taken control of the pumps,” said Rocco Huerta, a manager of a service station in Maracaibo. “Every five hours there are inspections by the Military Intelligence Division to measure how much gasoline is left.”
The shortages reportedly did not affect the Caracas metro area, home to around six million people, after the Maduro regime prioritized supplies to the capital in an attempt to alleviate pressure within the city most important to his regime’s survival.
Fuel shortages have become part and parcel of everyday life in the crisis-stricken country. Last year, production of oil by the state-run company Petroleum of Venezuela (PDVSA) fell to under one million barrels a day, a thirty-year low, while the International Energy Agency recently warned that the industry was on the brink of total collapse.
When socialist dictator Hugo Chávez seized power in 1998, production was around 3.2 million barrels a day. Socialist mismanagement of PDSVA eventually led to chronic inefficiencies that have triggered a collapse in production and a mass walkout of employees and directors, whose experience was vital to the company’s success.
Since March, the country has also experienced rolling power cuts that have crippled its basic ability to function, also forcing the closure of schools, hospitals, and other essential public services. Nicolás Maduro has repeatedly blamed the blackouts on a supposed attack by the U.S. on the country’s electrical grid designed at undermining his authority. He has never provided any evidence for such claims.