Parts of Oil-Rich Venezuela Stop Selling Gasoline Purportedly to Fight Coronavirus

People queue at a gas station in Caracas, on March 10, 2019, during a massive power outage. - National Assembly leader Juan Guaido said Sunday he will ask the Venezuelan legislature to declare a "state of alarm" in order to request international aid amid a massive power outage. (Photo by …

Parts of the oil-rich socialist state of Venezuela suspended the sale of gasoline entirely on Monday in what authorities claim is a radical measure aimed at stopping the spread of the Chinese coronavirus.

Deputy to the Legislative Council of the western state of Táchira (CLET) Nellyver Lugo, a loyalist of the Maduro regime, announced the move, insisting they were taking the unusual measure due to an uptick in coronavirus cases. Lugo, who is part of the energy cabinet in Táchira, said that although the measures were extreme, they were designed to prevent a “strong wave” of new cases.

“Due to the proportional increase in the suspected cases of COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] in Táchira and the increase in epidemiological controls, we announce that as of this Monday, July 20, we must abide by the radical quarantine, so we suspend the supply of fuel in the Progressive Distribution Plan,” she wrote on Instagram. “Our main concern is to keep the population protected and we urge families from Tachire to be fully aware to overcome this terrible pandemic.”

Táchira, which borders Colombia, has been among the most anti-socialist states in the country and home to some of the most violent crackdowns of dictator Nicolás Maduro’s tenure.

It is unclear if the suspension is self-imposed given Venezuela’s chronic shortages of gasoline, which have now plagued the country for several years. Lugo also did not explain how suspending gasoline would prevent the spread of infection, given that purchasing fuel does not generally require large amounts of human contact.

According to official figures, the state of Táchira has recorded 1,250 cases of the virus, which represents approximately ten percent of the country. As of Tuesday, health officials have confirmed 12,334 cases nationwide which, if correct, places Venezuela well below neighboring countries including Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, even relative to the varying size of their populations.

Widespread skepticism exists about the veracity of these figures for a variety of reasons, including the lack of testing, the decrepit nature of the country’s healthcare system, and the Maduro regime’s tendency to propagate lies and falsehoods to protect its own reputation.

It is also difficult to verify the real reason behind the suspension, given that Venezuela continues to experience massive fuel shortages forcing motorists to wait hours or even days in order to purchase. Venezuela’s production of crude oil reportedly fell for the sixth consecutive month in June, decreasing by a further 32 percent.

As a result of this lack of production, which began following Hugo Chávez’s decision to nationalize the country’s oil industry, the regime is now forced to import crude from authoritarian allies such as Russia, China, and Iran. Maduro has still successfully managed to export four ships of oil to Cuba as part of a series of mutual arrangements between the two communist allies.

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