| CIUDAD GUAYANA, Venezuela/CARACAS
CIUDAD GUAYANA, Venezuela/CARACAS, May 17 (Reuters) -
P ockets of oil-rich Venezuela were suffering gasoline shortages
on Wednesday as the OPEC nation's ageing refineries faced more
operational problems and protests blocked some deliveries.
Venezuela, which has the world's cheapest gasoline, has been
plagued by intermittent fuel shortages in recent months as its
oil industry struggles with lower production.
Lines were reported in the southeastern Anzoategui and
Bolivar states as well as the opposition hotbed of Tachira near
Colombia, where anti-government protests have flared in recent
days. Caracas, the capital, did not appear affected.
The president of state-run oil company PDVSA,
Eulogio Del Pino, blamed the holdups on nearly two months of
protests in Venezuela, home to the world's biggest crude
Demonstrators have blocked streets with barricades,
nighttime lootings have spread, and some tanker trucks have been
"We've said that when there are risky situations, or
disruptions of public order, drivers are kept off the roads
because these irrational (protesters) do not take risks into
account," Del Pino told journalists.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for
Three of Venezuela's four refineries are working at record
lows due to equipment malfunctioning, as well as lack of crude
and spare parts, according to internal PDVSA reports seen by
The waits at gasoline stations heap extra hardship on the
nation of 30 million, where many already jostle for hours in hot
lines for food due to a brutal economic crisis under leftist
President Nicolas Maduro.
On Wednesday in Tachira state, many roads were blocked and
stores had shut down amid the unrest.
At least 10 out of 36 gasoline stations in Bolivar's main
city, Ciudad Guayana, were also closed, according to Pedro
Calcano, president of the local gasoline stations association,
who said he was not given an explanation for the delays.
Bolivar has experienced significant supply disruptions even
though protests there have been smaller and less violent than in
"This problem won't end until production at the refineries
improves," said the manager of one service station.
Compounding the problem at the refineries, the
gasoline-producing catalytic cracking unit at the 310,000
barrel-per-day Cardon refinery was halted over the weekend,
PDVSA since March has tried to solve the fuel shortages by
increasing imports, but payment delays have impeded tankers from
discharging on time.
As of Wednesday, almost 20 tankers were waiting to discharge
imported products at ports, according to Thomson Reuters vessel
(Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston, Eyanir
Chinea in Caracas, and Anggy Polanco in San Cristobal,
Venezuela; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Leslie Adler)