Views from Venezuela – Running out of gas

Jose Luis Ramirez, 28, lives in San Felipe, Yaracuy, Venezuela. Every week he tells about his life in Venezuela, in this exclusive Chile Today column. Today no. 10, about the gas shortage.

The domestic gas distribution failures in this country have made many people wait for a long time to get household gas. But the service isn’t what it used to be. I remember that every time we ran out of gas, we just called the company, and maybe in one or two days we got the delivery. Now, nothing about domestic gas is certain anymore. The state has taken the whole responsibility to distribute, and with it, the problems have started.

In these days, every community is divided into blocks the state organizations call “quadrants.” Every quadrant has a leader, a person who must belong to the main state party, the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV). When a distribution run is scheduled, every person has to go to a specific place and bring their own gas bottles. Once the run ends, people go back home and wait until the filled bottle is returned. It often takes about two weeks or more.

But the main problem is not waiting a some time without gas at home; the main problem is that the comfort of getting gas with one single call is over. So let’s think of senior citizens, or those who remain alone as most of their family have gone abroad. Of course, they could pay someone to get the gas for them, which is becoming an increasingly viable business. Yet, it must be paid with cash – and that is hard to come by. Some people take advantage of the crisis, and somehow they find cash to sell the money even the triple from the original price. Sad but true!

if you don’t have any cash, you’d better think how to get that heavy bottle back home

Additionally, you have to queue twice to get your gas bottle filled. The first time when you take it empty and register your name, and the second when the bottle is ready. Of course, if you don’t have any cash, you’d better think how to get that heavy bottle back home. We have three sizes: small size weighs 10kg filled (22.05 pounds), medium size 18kg (39.68 pounds), and big size weighs 43kg (94.79 pounds).

The gas shortage can be due to the lack of proper distribution policies, or because there is an operational problem within the Venezuelan petroleum company Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa). The fact is that the government is in charge of both production and distribution. In 2017, the government said that the distribution problems were due to the protest waves, which according to them, hindered distribution trucks transporting the bottles. But the protests are over, and many families still have to deal with with the gas problem.

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