Venezuela: Socialist Warlords Take Over amid Gasoline Shortages

Cars queue to refill their gasoline tanks at a gas station in the town of Acarigua, in the Venezuelan state of Portuguesa, on May 25, 2019. (Photo by Marvin RECINOS / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARVIN RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images)
MARVIN RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images

The sale of gasoline in socialist-controlled Venezuela is increasingly being controlled by socialist warlords in a similar manner to drug trafficking, Argentinian outlet InfoBae detailed in a report Friday.

Amid chronic gasoline shortages across the oil-rich nation, socialist militias and military officials have taken advantage of the unmet demand by gaining preferential access to supplies and selling them at markups of up to 1000 percent.

One of the groups also taking advantage of the supply and demand is the People’s Liberation Army (ELN), a communist terror group based in Colombia and supported by Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime. According to one community leader from western Táchira state who spoke with InfoBae, the illegal sale of gasoline has become one of the group’s most important revenue streams.

“It is one of the important resources they obtain because even if there is a surcharge, no one is going to point them out for committing a crime that is almost institutionalized in a permissive manner,” said the leader. “I learned that the military, the guerrillas, the collectives, they all run gas stations and charge exaggerated prices for fuel.”

The operation is now so sophisticated that people are ordering gasoline via WhatsApp groups, where quotas and prices are negotiated. There is even a delivery system run by police officers or their family members to deliver the gasoline straight to one’s door. Prices for the fuel range from between 75,000 to 100,000 Colombian pesos (19.85 to 26.50 USD) for 30 liters, making it unaffordable for the vast majority of Venezuelans who live off just a few dollars a month as a result of the country’s dire economic crisis.

There is also an emerging market between higher quality Colombian gasoline and that imported from Iran, which is cheaper but of far less purity. Over the past year, Tehran has ramped up its oil imports to the Maduro regime amid ever closening ties between the nations, both of which are struggling under the pressure of economic sanctions imposed by the United States.

Despite having the largest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela is currently facing energy shortages comparable to the likes seen in Cuba and North Korea. The shortages are mainly a result of the collapse in oil production by the state-run oil company Petroleum of Venezuela, which has fallen to chronic inefficiencies and an exodus of its most experienced personnel since its nationalization by Hugo Chávez in the 2000s.

Shortages of gasoline are now so severe that some parts of the country have had to suspend its sale completely, a situation that if prolonged could lead to the collapse of civilization altogether. Many Venezuelans now also live with intermittent access to electricity and water supply as public services continue to crumble amid the country’s ever-worsening economic and humanitarian crisis.

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