Crisis in public transport reflects Venezuela’s deterioration

by Yezuan Calvis

The country’s transport infrastructure is in a state of total disorder due to high maintenance costs, decreased tax revenue, hyperinflation and a system that withdrawal of subsidies.

Venezuelans have been dealing not only with food, water and medicines shortages, but also with the fact that the public transport in the country is collapsing.

In occasions, citizens walk over 7 kilometres to reach their destinations. If they are lucky enough, they may get on a bus after waiting for more than an hour and paying the price sets by the driver during the day as fares are no longer fixed.

Jose Luis Trocel, president of the Public Transport Committee, informed that in the country only 10% of the fleet is working. ‘It is not possible to provide a good service. Maintenance costs are unsustainable due to the hyperinflation. Prices are based on the black-market value of foreign exchange’.

Abandoned buses can be found in different areas of the country. Most of them have been stolen to use their pieces to repair other buses.

Abandoned buses sit at a parking lot in the Petare neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, on Thursday, June 7, 2018 | Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Lorries: The new mode of transportation

Since November 2017, a new mode of transportation using trucks has been implemented by the Caracas’ mayor Érika Farías. This solution of enabling lorries to transport citizens is called by Venezuelans ‘Perreras’, because of its similitude with the function of livestock trucks.

“Public transport has been a recurring issue in our city (Caracas). We are offering the service provided by trucks during peak time traffic to reduce the waiting time of commuters. We are planning future actions to be taken to improve the public transport in the city.”, tweeted Farías.

Image: Difusión

Following the implementation of lorries to transport citizens, 250 people have been injured and 55 have died, according to the stats provided by the opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski.

One of the incident was caused by an overturned truck in the major city of Mérida, killing 11 travellers, including 9 children.

It is common people slammed against the asphalt while trying to climb the vehicles to reach their destinations.

Trip into isolation

President Nicolas Maduro’s economic policies have made Venezuela an arduous place to do business.

The regular flight-ticket selling operation in most of the countries consists on using the national currency where the ticket is sold, which then is converted to Pounds, Dollars, Euros or other currencies depending on where the company is based. However, in Venezuela this is not the case.

Since 2013, Hugo Chávez established fixed exchange rates and restricted the purchase of foreign currency. As a result, the bolívares (the nation’s currency) cannot get converted into foreign currency.

International airlines operating in Venezuela have their money frozen in the country. For this reason, they started selling the tickets in U.S. Dollars or Euros. These currencies are inaccessible for most Venezuelans. The minimum wage is 2.555.500 Bs, which is worth less than £1 at today’s exchange rate.

Last January, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that decided to leave Venezuela.

“We’ve evaluated various factors, like the deteriorative weather around the business and the complex social and economic situation in the country. Primarily, considering the fact there are just six operating IATA airlines in the country, compared to the 24 that served in 2014,” said the Regional Vice President for IATA Americas, Peter Cerdá.

The airlines exodus is also a consequence of the unreasonable fees the country charges for air traffic control, making most of the carriers avoiding the Venezuelan airspace.

The government and its Department for Transport have made no pronouncements on how they intend to deal with the transport crisis and their failed intent to maintain the country’s facilities and infrastructure.

This space has been created to inform about the current situation in Venezuela. Every week a new aspect of the crisis will be covered and posted.

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