Thousands of Venezuelans began lining up before dawn Friday outside a Caracas stadium, hoping to get a hold of a prized item: motor oil. “I got here at 2 a.m.,” said Carolina Estrella, a 32-year-old office manager, in line to purchase 12 liters for her family’s three cars. National guard officers estimated about 5,000 people were in line by 11 a.m.
The two-day-only sale was announced by Venezuela’s state oil giant, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, Thursday and at 300,000 bolivars per liter, the price is a steal compared to the 25 million bolivars ($8) charged for any imported kind at a car shops around Caracas. While long lines of this kind have become the norm around the country, soaring hyperinflation of 60,000 percent has stoked desperation among Venezuelans. For many here, the cost of basic items like milk or flour now eat up substantial chunks of their monthly wages.
While President Nicolas Maduro has vowed to boost daily output by 1 million barrels, production is constrained by the lack of replacement parts and chemicals needed to drill, remove contaminants and treat crude before it’s suitable for refining. Production in Venezuela, which boasts the world’s largest oil reserves, will likely fall to 800,000 barrels per day by the end of 2019, from 1.36 million barrels in May, according to the International Energy Agency.