Not even Iranian gasoline can solve the shortage in Venezuela

After the gasoline that Nicolas Maduro government bought from Iran at the end of May, the production and supply of fuel in the country did not rebound even though, according to Maduro, the purchase of Iranian gasoline would be a temporary solution while the refineries restarted fuel production.

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In the parish of Simon Bolivar, in western Carabobo, at least 100 vehicles are waiting since Saturday, August 8, to be re-fuel. Photo by courtesy of Luis Berroteran.

In May, several months after Venezuelan refineries stopped producing gasoline for the first time since World War II, the ruler Nicolas Maduro announced the importing of fuel from Iran as a temporary solution to the gasoline shortage that caused the collapse of the Venezuelan oil industry.

Even though Venezuela has the largest known oil reserves in the world and six refineries in the country, the gasoline production had stopped in January, and protests began multiplying.

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Weeks after the Maduro announcement, five ships loaded with gasoline from Iran arrived in the oil-rich nation. Venezuela had become the first Latin American country in history to import gasoline from Iran, but, other first was also coming, after decades of enjoying the cheapest fuel on the planet, Venezuelan motorists were going to pay US-equivalent prices of US$0.50 per liter. A subsidized price was available only after enduring long lines and showing proof of ruling party affiliation, and yet there was no price guarantee.

Here is a chronological review of what has happened so in Venezuela after the arrival of the Iranian gasoline.

The price of gasoline increased in May

On May 30, after the arrival of gasoline from Iran, Maduro announced an increase in the price of fuel and the authorization for private entrepreneurs to import fuel and sell it in dollars.

At that time, Maduro detailed that the sale of gasoline would be dividing into a scheme of subsidized sales and another that could be paid in foreign currency, in which the price per liter would be US$0.50.

Almost three months after the arrival of the Iranian ships with gasoline, in Carabobo state, for example, citizens must wait at least a week before they can fill their tanks.

Refineries paralyzed in June and July

With the arrival of Iranian gasoline, Maduro also announced the purchase of spare parts and chemicals to reactivate gasoline production in the country. “The supplies are arriving,” Maduro said at the end of May.

In June, El Pitazo checked with workers from the Paraguana Refinery Complex (CRP in Spanish) that they only received catalyst agents and imported Iranian gasoline. They said the production of fuel has not yet begun at that refinery, something that has not been done in the last two years.

In June, workers from El Palito refinery told El Pitazo that the lack of diesel which feeds the catalytic cracking plant caused the latter to shut down and completely paralyzed the refinery, which until that moment, was not producing gasoline despite the announcements made by the Maduro.

Refinery workers indicated this August 18 that fuel and gas production has begun.

Fuel seized by the US in August

On August 13, the US seized four ships with a total of 1.1 million barrels of gasoline from Iran on the high seas and redirected them to Houston, Texas.
The Persian nation’s oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, assured that the seized ships did not belong to his country, but the fuel they were carrying did and had been paid for by Venezuela.

In mid-June, the US Treasury Department sanctioned the captains of the five Iranian ships that transported gasoline to Venezuela.

According to specialists, the unprecedented measure executed by the Trump administration will worsen the crisis generated and the shortage of gasoline in the country due to the critical state of the refineries.

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