The switch comes amid a larger move from the socialist government, ending its long-standing free gasoline subsidies to citizens amid shortages that have recently hit the country. The Financial Times reports that Venezuelans will still receive 60 liters a month for almost free, at $0.02 per liter—enough to fill an average car twice.
Anything more than that will have to be purchased at close to market price, about $0.50 per liter, and only at one of 200 government approved gasoline stations.
Moreover, in order to be eligible for this subsidised gas, Venezuelans are obliged to sign up to receive their Patria—Fatherland—card. Many citizens have bristled at the prospect of being forced onto this government program, seeing it as an intrusive method of government control.
Indeed, use of the Patria card goes through a government system called the Sistema Biopago, or “Bio-pay System”, a biometric identity system.
Once an oil-producing country, mismanagement of Venezuela’s nationalized oil industry over the last two decades has resulted in a precipitous fall in production.
In addition, relentless US sanctions in recent years on oil from Venezuela have helped to cripple the country’s economy; and the recent historic collapse in the price of oil, following a collapse in global demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, seems to have been the straw on Venezuela’s back.
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