Prices may be rising for world’s cheapest gas in Venezuela
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Nicolás Maduro said Wednesday he’s appointed a team of specialists to consider whether the price of the world’s cheapest gasoline in Venezuela should rise for drivers in the crisis-stricken nation.
Venezuela boasts the world’s largest underground oil reserves, but it has been forced to buy fuel from Iran to bridge deep shortages, unable to pump crude from the ground and turn it into gasoline.
Fuel shortages have plagued the socialist nation for years, which costs less than a penny a gallon, but scarcity recently has even hit the capital of Caracas, sparking mile-long lines at filling stations that last for days.
“The gasoline that we have brought from abroad, from Iran and other countries, we have paid for in dollars,” Maduro said. “Many people have suggested to me, and I agree, that gasoline must come at a price.”
Maduro often accuses U.S. sanctions aimed at forcing him from power for chronic shortages and most other domestic troubles, while critics of the socialist government blame years of corruption and mismanagement that’s destroyed its oil industry.
Recent shortages have sparked a black market in Caracas among wealthy residents who have dollars and don’t want to wait in line, spending up to $10 a gallon — making it among the world’s most expensive gasoline.
Tampering with fuel prices in the past has been an explosive subject. In 1999, riots broke out leading to roughly 300 deaths when then-President Carlos Andrés Pérez ordered an increase.
Officials say the nearly-free gasoline costs the cash-strapped Venezuelan government up to $18 billion a year.
Maduro didn’t offer any clues into how much drivers may end up paying. He said only that it needs to be set at a “fair” price as part of a plan of “regularization, normalization and distribution.”