The largest international airport in Venezuela has recently imposed a “breathing tax” on individuals currently in the building. The $20 tax is said to be necessary to pay for air conditioning in the impoverished socialist nation.
Univisión reports that, beginning on July 1, the Maiquetía International Airport in Caracas imposed a tax on the air inside the airport to “protect the health of its passengers.” The airport currently uses an ozone system to purify the air in the airport and keep it at moderate temperatures. A press release from the government claims it is the first Latin American airport to use ozone technology to keep the air clean, though it does not specify why this technology was chosen or why the government went ahead with the project at a time when it could not pay for the technology without charging a breathing fee.
Residents in Caracas, the BBC notes, are outraged. Writes a Venezuelan radio host on Twitter: “Could you explain to me the ozone thing in Maiquetia? The toilets don’t have water, the air-con is broken, there are stray dogs inside the airport, but there’s ozone?” Other residents note that the airport is even lacking in tickets out of the country. One man told Venezuela’s El Periodiquito that he feared Venezuelans would be stranded in the country because of the socialist government’s sour relationship with airlines: “We are heading down a path where Venezuela becomes isolated and we have to do like the Cubans and toss ourselves to sea for sharks to eat us to be able to reach other countries.” The man told El Periodiquito that he was intent on finding a plane ticket to Miami as soon as possible.
The government of President Nicolás Maduro owes multiple airlines a total of $3.7 billion, prompting airlines to begin canceling flights to Venezuela. In addition to the debt with airlines, debts to different private companies – including vehicle, food, and pharmaceutical companies – total $14 billion. Among airlines that have already at least reduced flights to the nation are Air Canada, United Airways, and Delta. The country, which boasts one of the highest inflation rates in the world, is combatting significant economic problems that have led to food rationing and a lack of basic goods such as vegetable oil, milk, flour, and water. Many blame President Maduro’s socialist policies, citing the fact that Venezuela is also in possession of the world’s largest oil reserves and could arguably be extremely wealthy with the proper management.