The inhabitants of the “Valmore Rodríguez” Municipality, located on the Eastern Coast of Lake Maracaibo in western Venezuela, believe that this jurisdiction seems to be off the map of the region, due to the precarious supply of gasoline which, according to them, is almost non-existent.
The municipality, once known for its intense oil activity, has not received subsidized gasoline service for two months, they only have one “dollarized” – Where one must pay in hard currency at International prices – gas station for more than 1,400 cars and motorcycles.
Since last August 21st, the modality of the two types of service stations in the jurisdiction changed. The gas station called ‘Estación 27’ located in Bachaquero, changed from dollarized to subsidized, but since that date it has not provided service.
After more than 70 days closed, no one gives a reason or explanation for the cause of this situation, which is described as an outrage by the people of Valmore.
The only service station that operates in the area is the one they call ‘Danas’, where with luck they manage to refuel once a week and serves a maximum of 200 cars of the more than 800 vehicles that make up the local vehicle fleet, according to figures provided by Luis Álvarez, President of the Bachaquero-Mene Grande transport line.
A city of old people
Audio Fonseca, motorcyclist, said that the situation with fuel in Valmore Rodríguez is critical. Public transportation is paralyzed, as are private drivers. To go to work or run errands they all depend on the buses that belong to the regime and which provide a limited service until 1:00 pm, which does not favor those who work until 4:00 pm or a later.
“If they don’t finish something by that time, they’ll have to fight like a tick,” said the sixty-year-old.
Fonseca said they are living in a suffocating situation. The queues are three or four days long, and not every week the tanker truck arrives to supply fuel.
Users have spent up to a week in queue. Another precariousness that the people of Valmore suffer is that they do not have bank branch offices.
Fonseca said that the fuel crisis forces them to drive to the neighboring municipalities of Baralt or Lagunillas, where they must spend the night in a queue to buy gasoline. Or at least waste up to ten hours in line.
“It’s sad what we suffer here, this is a city of old people. All the young people left, there is no source of employment here. Well, if there is no gasoline, what can we expect? What we earn is barely enough to eat, sometimes we go up to 15 days without fuel. It is urgent that they do something for us,” he protested.
Poor public transportation
Abraham Rodríguez is a public transportation driver and told lapatilla.com that the sector is on technical strike, not by choice, but because PDVSA does not supply fuel to the area.
He adds that they have not been informed what the cause of this shortage is. He also said that it is ironic that a municipality known for its high oil activity today seems “a ghost town from the Far West (…) Valmore Rodríguez is off the map of Zulia.”
Rodríguez reported that barely the week that gasoline arrives, 50 vehicles work, which according to his estimates represents 12% of the municipality’s public transportation fleet.
In this area of Zulia State there are four urban routes: Route 1, Route 2, Delicias – Cipayos and Plan Barreto. In the suburban area there are Bachaquero-Ciudad Ojeda, Bachaquero-Mene Grande and Bachaquero-El Venao.
He reported that there are weeks in which public transportation does not operate at all, and users must walk kilometers to reach their destinations.
“We spend up to five days in line to fill 40 liters (about 10 gallons) and we work until the gasoline runs out to half eat and save 20 dollars to refill gas, when there is some. If the cars break down, they are thrown away, because we don’t have the money to repair them. The crisis here is too strong.”
Jorge Álvarez, president of the Association of Merchants and Industrialists of Bachaquero (ASIBA), reported that the fuel shortage is 100%. He suggests to the National Executive and Venezuelan Oil authorities (PDVSA) to conduct an audit to find out what is really happening with fuel distribution in the area.
For Álvarez it is worrying and puzzling that all the municipalities on the Eastern Coast of the Lake receive fuel, but that in Valmore Rodríguez the allocation is so precarious.
According to the merchant, sales have fallen by 20% in the municipality caused by the lack of fuel. He explains that the residents spend the day in lines for gasoline or take advantage of shopping in the surrounding municipalities when they go to fill their tanks.
“The reality is palpable. Without fuel, a city is dead, shut down and therefore, commercial and economic activity comes to a standstill. I go to Maracaibo and travel for almost two hours by road, driving to get gas on Sundays. But not all residents have that option,” he said.
Privilege for “fishermen”
A resident of Bachaquero, capital of the municipality, who preferred not to reveal his identity, denounced that the fuel shortage is an old story, and that “while the vehicle fleet is assigned one truck, or less, per week, the fishermen are allocated the same amount every week.
He wonders what the true destination of those liters of gasoline is, because in the area there is not a lot of fishing activity.
Likewise, he said that fish is not easily available in the area, because it is sold to other municipalities such as La Cañada and Urdaneta.
They ask government agencies to review the destination of the fuel and the cause of this suffocating restriction of fuel in the municipality.
No solutions in sight
Councilor Yuleida Aranguren highlighted that the deficiency in gasoline distribution in Valmore Rodríguez dates back more than a decade when the full blown crisis broke out in the country, and this region was not exempt.
The councilwoman highlighted that her hometown seems like a ghost town, the streets are desolate, there are no vehicles visible and very few pedestrians.
She said that the disappearance of gasoline has led to the worsening of the economic crisis, which she described as atypical.
The political leader of the Primero Justicia Party revealed that migration, a political and economic crisis in Venezuela, has driven away 30% of the region’s population, especially young people.
She said that the quota of vehicles, when gasoline arrives, is 100 to 140 vehicles, all of them limited to 40 liters per vehicle at international prices. Restrictions by license plate number do not apply, and so the drivers who are first in front of the queue have the right to refill their cars.
“There are people here who want to move forward, produce, innovate, but the State does not guarantee the minimum conditions, there is no university in the municipality, nor public transportation. We are in a quagmire.”
Aranguren pointed out that the inhabitants of the rural Raúl Cuenca Parish are those who are experiencing the worst blows of the crisis, while the inhabitants of urban parishes such as La Victoria and Rafael Urdaneta, have the opportunity to go to other municipalities in search of services and food.