By Nataly Angulo.
Jesus Campos lives in Maracaibo, a city in the oil state of Zulia. He walks for four hours every time he has to go to his dialysis treatment session. He does this three times a week to cleanse his body of the toxins that complicate his health and put his life at risk. He has a car, but no gasoline.
Venezuela is undergoing a severe gasoline shortage, despite having the largest oil reserves in the world and six refineries in the country. The government hiked the price of gasoline to $0.50 a liter, equivalent to US prices, while the lines to buy subsidized gasoline are week-long. Paradoxically, it is Zulia, the birthplace of the Venezuelan oil industry, where the shortages are most severe.
Sometimes, Jesus can find a bus to take him to the Western Dialysis Center, but it is on his way back home that he has found out that, almost always, he has to walk.
“After 3:00 pm you can not get cars or buses. The bus provided by the city leaves me at a bus stop, and from there, I must walk four hours to my house. I arrive tired, with pain in my chest,” he said.
Campos, along with a group of at least 50 kidney patients, gathered in front of the Zulia Defense Zone headquarters to demand that the military authorities, in charge of fuel distribution, and the governor of Zulia, Omar Prieto, provide them with gasoline to be able to receive their dialysis treatment.
Campos has a car, but for a little more than a month, he has not been unable to get gasoline. Zulia state authorities do not guarantee chronic patients a supply of fuel at gas stations, where users take up to two days in line to buy gas.
“I can not stand in a two-day line. I cannot buy gasoline on the illegal market either because I do not have the funds. We want to be guaranteed 30 liters per week. Our lives depend on dialysis,” he said.
Ambar Urdaneta, a 23-year-old kidney patient, has also been affected by the gasoline shortages. “I want to live, but I need the fuel to go on dialysis. We ask for support; we do not want to be given gasoline as a gift, but we want it to be guaranteed.”
Urdaneta said that military officials who control the supply at gas stations are not supportive. “They humiliate us. If we do not dialyze, we die. We ask for help, and they do not attend to us. We need the gasoline to dialyze”, she says.