Watch: Mile long waits for gas in oil rich Venezuela
US sanctions on oil-rich Venezuela appear to be taking hold, resulting in mile-long lines for fuel in the South American nation's second-largest city, Maracaibo.
One driver said he has been in the queue for three days, and people have been grabbing catnaps on the hoods of cars or in truck beds.
Angry drivers in Maracaibo also complained that police were profiting off their frustrations.
“Here, it is simply (the rule), the one who has money puts in the gas. The one who doesn't have money because, like these 500 (bolivar) bills they might not even want to accept them. Now you have to carry dollars. For example, I have this car and it takes about 50 liters (13 gallons) of gas and there are times that I have had to give 10, 15 up to 20 dollars (US) for them to put in 60 (16 gallons) of gas.”
“That is for the guards.”
They said officers overseeing the lines allowed some to pay the equivalent of 3.60 US dollars - more than half of the monthly minimum wage - to cut into a shorter line while others waited for hours to fill up their tank with subsidised fuel that costs less than a penny.
The Trump administration this year sanctioned Venezuela's state-owned oil and gas company PDVSA in an effort aimed at driving President Nicolas Maduro from office, while throwing its support behind opposition leader Juan Guido.
The US sanctions essentially cut off Maduro's government from its Houston-based subsidiary Citgo, depriving officials of an estimated 11 billion dollars in hard currency from exports this year. US officials say this cash flow long bankrolled what they call Maduro's "dictatorship."
Sanctions also put the squeeze on Venezuela access to diluents needed to thin its tar-like heavy crude so it can be piped over 100 miles (160 kilometres) from the field to be turned into gasoline.
"I am a citizen who works and I have been in this line for three days. Thanks to this government we are the way we are. Thanks to the corruption that we are living through with the National Guard. First it is them and then the citizens,” said one driver.
And the political stalemate shows few signs of drawing near its end.
In a recent flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at peacefully solving Venezuela's crisis, European officials said they held intensive meetings over two days in Caracas with key players.
At about the same time, Maduro's government and the opposition sent representatives to talks in Norway. Officials engaged in both efforts reported no breakthroughs.
The panic over shortages has crept into the capital, Caracas, leading to moderately long lines for the last three days at many stations.