Car owners in Táchira, Venezuela, had to wait up to five days to buy gasoline this week after Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime piloted a new scheme to keep foreigners from profiting off of subsidized prices.
Drivers reportedly had to wait between 72 to 96 hours in the searing heat outside service stations for the arrival of gasoline, a product in increasingly short supply amid the country’s dire economic crisis.
“We have waited three days in a row. They say that the gasoline lorry arrives in the night and we hope that is the case,” Jorge Bezones, one of the drivers waiting in the queue, told El Nacional. “On Wednesday they were going to rob us. In addition, there are gentlemen over 80 years old in line when they should be at home resting.”
El plan piloto implementado por el gobierno nacional es calificado de fracaso, porque se había iniciado el pasado 4 de septiembre en los estados fronterizos y aún, no han sido activados. El desarrollo de esta noticia la encuentras en #NoticiasEnVIVO por: https://t.co/4HeIE2lAK4 pic.twitter.com/UJIUQMqCBX
— TVVenezuela Noticias (@TVVnoticias) September 24, 2018
To help pass the time and feel more comfortable, many drivers took items from their homes such as pillows, hammocks, board games, and food dishes into their cars.
After five days of waiting, the scene eventually turned to chaos as drivers began to protest by blocking the streets and covering them with debris. Despite the efforts of police to calm the situation, Maduro eventually suspended the new policy.
Los habitantes del estado Táchira, en la frontera con Colombia, viven un calvario para aprovisionarse de gasolina, debiendo realizar filas de hasta tres días en vísperas de que empiece a regir un nuevo sistema de pago https://t.co/QNUtVypEsW pic.twitter.com/vnY7i2dFZA
— NTN24 Venezuela (@NTN24ve) September 24, 2018
The country’s Ministry of Communication took to Twitter to declare that the “new biometric system of fingerprint readers and the identity card of the country for the collection of gasoline has been a success.”
Nicolás Maduro also announced a new payment system around the country that will allow Venezuelans to receive their government subsidy. He has previously claimed that as a result of nationwide fuel subsidies, foreigners were cheating the country out of millions of dollars.
“We are going to bring global technology from China, which combines payment in cash, with card and QR,” he said on Tuesday.
Despite having the largest oil reserves in the world, access to gasoline in Venezuela has plummeted amid a chronic lack of production and the government’s failure to pay shipping costs for imports.
The major factor has been the near total collapse of the Venezuelan state-run oil company Petroleum of Venezuela (PDSVA), which is now controlled by military generals with little experience in oil production. Thousands of workers have left the company over the past year over negligible and deteriorating working conditions.