Things getting better, things getting worse

December 11, 2002

Gasoline supplies in Caracas were improving, at the same time that they were getting worse in some parts of the country. The Government managed to take over a ship, but it has yet to move or reach port. Some ships that were docked left filled with crude, but they had been filled before the strike stopped the wells. Oil production continues to drop at this time. In Maracaibo there are still 800,000 barrels of crude waiting for shipment but no way to ship it out. Only 2 of the 28 drills in Zulia State remain functioning. Two barges in lake Maracaibo carrying sludge from oil wells overturned as they were being handled by temporary replacemnets. Two boats transporting PDVSA personnel collided and a russian tanker had to anchor and it is in a dangerours position, due to the inexperience of the pilot. The Curacao refinery has shutdown due to the lack of crude to process.

Meanwhile, finance authorities were trying to solve the problem with low inventories in cash to distribute to banks, as Venezuelans began hoarding bills given the uncertainty ahead. Banks are opening only half days and there are huge lunes at those offices that actually manage to open.

Chavez and his Government continue to call the strike “sabotage” and refuse to give in into any of the demands of the opposition for elections. His former comrade in arms Francisco Arias Cardenas, who joined him in the ’92 coup, has called on him to hold elections in the first quarter of 2003.

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