BOGOTA/CARACAS – The Venezuelan currency is worthless, and between the gas shortages and the lack of spare parts, Juan Carrilo, who works as a bus driver, said it's hard to keep his bus' engine running.
The mile-long lines at gas stations this week in Caracas are not as common, as they are in the OPEC nation's border regions where fuel smuggling is rampant. But amid the crisis, Carrilo said professional drivers are having to pay bribes in U.S. dollars all around the country.
"To keep my bus running, I have to have this," Carrilo said in Spanish, while holding a $1 USD bill. "I have to have this to pay for repairs and even for gas. I guess we are Americans now. We are using dollars."
Some drivers say they are paying up to $4 to fill up their tanks in an oil-rich country where subsidized fuel used to cost less than a penny. And despite having the largest oil reserves in the world, experts believe the shortages are going to get worse.
Embattled President Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó, the U.S.-recognized interim president, are blaming each other. As Maduro's loyalists attack the National Assembly, Guaidó is asking anyone who wants change in Venezuela to pressure Maduro to step down.
Guaidó's supporters blame the shortage on corruption and mismanagement at the state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. Maduro's supporters blame it on U.S. President Donald Trump's sanctions.
PDVSA lost its Houston-based refiner Citgo. PDVSA doesn't have the cash needed for supplies to run and maintain Venezuela's refineries. There is a lack of tankers and buyers.
Reuters reported the country's second-largest oil refinery, stopped operating last week because of damage. And as crude production has dropped, PDVSA was offering 6.4 million barrels of discounted crude oil to Russia, China and India, S&P Global Patts reported.
The PDVSA crisis that has prompted the gas shortage comes as Venezuelans are already dealing with hyperinflation, shortages of basic goods, crime, power outages, water service disruptions and a collapsing health care system.