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Venezuela Maduro announces new fuel plan as second Iranian tanker arrives

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday pledged to improve gasoline output and distribution in the fuel-starved nation, as the second of three Iranian tankers carrying fuel entered the South American country’s waters.

The once-prosperous OPEC nation is struggling under a collapsing oil industry and U.S. sanctions that have crippled imports and exports, resulting in snaking lines of drivers waiting for gasoline at state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela’s stations.

“The gasoline we have purchased from abroad for October is arriving, and we are making purchases for later months,” Maduro said in a state television broadcast. “Venezuela needs to produce all it consumes.”

As part of the new plan, which Maduro said would be detailed in the coming days, Venezuelans would be limited to filling their tanks on certain days depending on their license plate numbers.

The change comes after a wave of protests in recent days over a lack of basic services, including gasoline. The government this year also drastically rolled back longstanding fuel subsidies.

The Iran-flagged vessel Fortune reached Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone at 1:45 a.m. local time (0545 GMT), after its fellow vessel Forest docked at El Palito port on Monday, according to Refinitiv Eikon tanker tracking data and sources.

The Forest was expected to discharge 272,000 barrels of fuel, according to a source at El Palito who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The refinery’s fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCC) recently restarted gasoline output and is producing at least 30,000 barrels per day (bpd), two people familiar with the matter said.

The only other refinery producing gasoline in Venezuela is the Cardon refinery, with output of around 25,000 bpd.

The third vessel in the flotilla, the Faxon, is due to arrive later this week, according to the data.

Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Mexico City, Vivian Sequera and Mayela Armas in Caracas and Tibisay Romero in Valencia, Venezuela; Additional reporting and writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Cynthia Osterman and Richard Pullin

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