Venezuela, home to world’s largest oil reserves, runs out of gasoline

Hundreds of Venezuelans found themselves stranded on Thursday as the nation’s gasoline supply ran out at stations throughout the nation’s urban centers, having to wait for hours to fill up at many stations across the country.

While state oil company PDVSA said the situation would normalize and blamed the lines on transport delays, the opposition said the company has had to reduce costly fuel imports as it tries to preserve cash to pay its foreign debt.

As the company’s crumbling refineries fail to meet domestic demand, imports have become a financial burden because the country buys fuel abroad at market prices only to sell it for pennies per gallon at home.

PDVSA has been reducing the money-losing imports as it prepares for $2 billion in bond payments due next month, said Jose Brito, an opposition lawmaker on the National Assembly’s oil commission, adding that it was “unbelievable that this is happening in an oil producing country.”

The hunt for gasoline is just the latest headache for consumers after years of severe economic contraction and triple-digit inflation have produced shortages of everything from bread to antibiotics.