By Nataly Angulo.
Taxi drivers in Maracaibo have been stripping their vehicles and selling them for parts to survive the COVID-19 quarantine that has kept them out of work since mid-March.
Besides, gasoline is still in short supply, making it even harder for cab drivers to work there, even though Zulia is rich in oil and has its refineries.
Of the more than 10,000 Coronavirus cases in Venezuela, Zulia (capital, Maracaibo) has about 25%. Chavista Governor, Omar Prieto, has admitted to being positive for the virus and is in confinement.
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The drivers said they must sell the tires, alternator, starter, and sometimes even the gearbox or the engine of their cars, to be able to buy food and feed their families during the 119 days over which they have been idle by orders of the Governor.
Anderson Villalobos, 43, dismantled the bus he was using to work. “I had to sell the alternator, the starter, and the battery and also to start selling bread and eggs out of my house because this is too difficult,” the former cabbie said.
Bad times for cab drivers
Villalobos must support his two children, aged 5 and 10, his wife and his grandmother. “If it is my turn to sell the tires, I’ll do it. I only think about my family so that they don’t go hungry,” he adds.
Like Villalobos, Yasarith Quintero sold pieces of her van to feed her four children. “This is a beatdown. I have sold the battery, the alternator, some parts that I had saved, and now I am advertising to sell the tires so that I can buy food,” she said.
Quintero is the president of the La Limpia – La Estrella route. Her children went from eating three times a day -and even snacking- to only eating twice a day, most foods are beans.
“We have been hit, very hard. We are living through things that we never thought we would. At first, it was said (by the Maduro regime) that they were going to help us with a bag of food, but they did not”, Quintero said.
No help for them
The Zulia government banned public transport from 16 March -at the very beginning of the quarantine – to reduce vehicular traffic and the number of people in the streets. At that time, the Mayor of Maracaibo promised to assist the drivers of the different transport routes with a bag of food, but it did not reach them.
Ruben Esis, the representative of the Zulia State Transport Union, denounced that the transporters go hungry and that the authorities forgot about them.
“The situation has already turned into famine they are going hungry. There is desperation. We do not have any compensatory measures. We are asking for help, a bag of food, a loan, a donation. We are living bad times because we don’t have any salary,” said Esis
He estimated that in Zulia, there are some 8,000 drivers workers affected by the quarantine.