A man was killed and another wounded following a dispute at a service station in the Venezuelan state of Mérida on Saturday, as vehicles owners were forced to wait hours or even days to get access to gasoline.
The incident took place in the town of Tabay when a brawl at a service station line escalated into gunshots, the town’s Mayor Jose Otalora confirmed in a telephone interview with Reuters.
“In the midst of confusion and a series of impasses with the National Police, regrettably a firearm was used that caused the death of one man, left another wounded,” Otalora said.
Otalora identified the fatality as a man named Wilderman Paredes and said that the wounded had received medical treatment. He did not name suspects or provide any further details of the investigation.
The shooting underlines the growing tension in Venezuela surrounding gas shortages, with vehicle owners forced to spend hours or even days to access fuel. Last month, it was reported that socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro had ordered the military to oversee the distribution of fuel, with service stations attracting hundreds of vehicles before dawn.
Fuel shortages are mainly a result of the chronic lack of production by the country’s state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), taken over in late 2017 by an inexperienced military general loyal to the socialist regime. Thousands of employees have since left in protest at the militarization of the company as well as low morale and depressed wages.
Last year, overall oil production fell to under one million barrels a day, a thirty-year low. The International Energy Agency recently warned that the PDSVA was on the brink of total collapse. To meet demand, the regime has been forced to import over 300,000 barrels per day from Russia and China, both of whom remain strong allies of the Maduro regime.
In recent months, Venezuela has also experienced repeated power blackouts that have crippled the country’s basic ability to function, forcing the closure of schools, hospitals, and other essential public services. Maduro has repeatedly blamed the blackouts on a supposed Washington-led attack on the country’s electrical grid aimed at weakening his grip on power, although he failed to provide any evidence for such claims.