By Maria Danieri.
Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho.
Five days and four nights sound like a romantic getaway, but, for Anyber Portillo and Alirio Rivas, inhabitants of Valera, Trujillo state, it was time spent obtaining a measly 12 liters of gasoline.
Despite having the largest oil reserves on the planet and six in-country refineries, Venezuela stopped producing gasoline in January. Imports from Iran did little to assuage the ensuing shortage, which has resulted in bloody protests all over Venezuela.
Dawn came, and the couple was together, hugging, but sitting on the curb, right in front of El Bolo gas station, on the morning of Monday, September 21. They were 115th in line to fill up. They had started lining September 19.
However, there was a problem: the station storage tank had become contaminated with water. That alone set them back three days.
Anyber said that on that journey, they were not alone. At least another 200 users spent the night in the surroundings of the pump, waiting for whatever gasoline their small bike tanks can hold.
Only El Bolo got authorized to sell gasoline to bikes in the region by Maduro regime military authorities. So, they have nowhere else to go. Eventually, 1,000 bikers would converge on El Bolo, from all over in Trujillo state.
Portillo, a journalist who also bakes and sells cakes out of her home, said that spending five days hunting for gasoline goes against her principles. But she needs her motorcycle, with a capacity of about five liters, to get to work, look for ingredients, and, if she can deliver her desserts. Gasoline is not a product she can do without it.
“If one does not wake up, one does not have a chance to fill up,” said Portillo, who related how motorists organized themselves into five lists, according to the license plate terminal number.
However, although they are made in advance, these documents are updated daily in the morning, afternoon, and evening. If any of these documents do not appear in the “roll call” schedule, it is cross out, and you are “punched out” for gas.
This organizing, by the way, is done behind the backs of the military running the pumps. According to users, however, the uniforms have their scheme running, allowing those who pay to cut in line.
Alirio, who is a guard in the state of Merida, explained that this situation prevents him from spending time with his 9-year-old son.
Six months ago, corresponding to the COVID-19 quarantine, he had not been able to visit him. Now, when he is finally home, he cannot restfully because he must spend several days at a gas station.
It’s not a matter of luxury, he said, but of a real need, which cannot be denied. He must save gasoline to return to his work by motorcycle, and contrary to the stereotypes of public officials, he does not have priority.
“We didn’t escape reality. The rain has fallen on us, we have slept in cardboard. We don’t have water and power cuts every day, like everyone else,” said Rivas. Even though he managed to access 12 liters this Wednesday, now must wait another 48 hours to supply his girlfriend’s motorcycle.