Motorists in the socialist nation of Venezuela are modifying their vehicles to run on cooking gas due to a chronic lack of gasoline, in a trend that engineers have warned is extremely dangerous and likely to cause explosions as well as other associated health risks.
Venezuela is experiencing the worst gasoline shortage in its history due to plummeting rates of production and U.S.-imposed sanctions aimed at stifling the Maduro regime’s ability to import fuel from abroad. The nation is home to the world’s second-largest oil reserves.
Besides wreaking further misery on the country’s shattered economy, lack of gasoline supply has forced people to queue for multiple hours up to several days in order to get their vehicles running, causing widespread anger and frustration among motorists.
In an attempt to avoid the painstakingly long queues for gasoline, Reuters reported that mechanics and some average drivers are implementing a propane cylinder typically used in home kitchens in their vehicle’s fuel systems.
“There is no fuel and I had to put my car like this to be able to work,” 25-year-old Senen Aguirre told the agency from the city of Maracaibo. Despite the vehicle smelling a lot of gas, he insisted that the modifications are safe and his real fear is that the police attempt to confiscate the car on the grounds that it is illegal.
The barter economy is kicking up in Venezuela.
As inflation rises, you can literally buy gasoline with a cigarette pic.twitter.com/WQLR3sCG6S
— Bloomberg QuickTake (@QuickTake) December 1, 2019
Engineers have warned that such modifications are potentially lethal as they can cause explosions as well as other health risks linked to prolonged exposure to propane gas.
“I’m not really scared,” insisted 39-year-old Franklin Benavidez, a driver of a public transportation unit that runs on cooking gas. “Someday I will have to die, if I fly to pieces at least it will be for my children to eat.”
Despite having the largest oil reserves in the world after the United States, shortages of gasoline have become another challenging aspect of life for ordinary Venezuelans amid the ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis. Following his election in 1998, late dictator Hugo Chávez nationalized the country’s thriving oil industry and promoted heavy fuel subsidies as an integral part of his socialist revolution.
Under the Maduro regime, Venezuela’s state-run oil company Petroleum of Venezuela (PDSVA) has now all but collapsed, yet due to continued subsidies and stratospheric hyperinflation, the cost of gasoline is now equivalent to just a fraction of a cent. As a result of such shortages, they are now forced to import its fuel from allies such as Russia and China, although the country’s effective bankruptcy has made it difficult for them to make payments on time.
Since March last year, Venezuelans have also suffered repeated power cuts that have further stifled the country’s basic ability to function by forcing the closure of schools, hospitals, and other essential public services. Maduro has repeatedly blamed the blackouts on a supposed U.S.-led attack on the country’s electrical grid aimed at undermining his regime, although he has failed to ever provide any evidence for such claims.