Venezuela’s attorney general said on Thursday that 10 officials from state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) were arrested for allegedly diverting and selling some 3 million liters (792,516 gallons) of fuel illicitly, as long lines continue at petrol stations throughout the OPEC country due to shortages of gasoline and diesel.
Farmers, manufacturers and retailers earlier this week pressed President Nicolas Maduro to speed up a plan to resolve shortages of diesel, warning that lack of fuel was threatening harvests and food transport in the crisis-stricken country.
“These criminals have tried to make a profit, I repeat in a criminal way, with fuel without caring about the damage it causes not only to society, but they practically become allies, accomplices of those who have promoted the blockade and the sanctions,” said Attorney General Tarek Saab.
Maduro has blamed the shortages on U.S. sanctions, which are aimed at ousting him. Last year, Washington eliminated an exemption to sanctions that allowed Venezuela to export crude oil and receive diesel in return. Critics argue that problems at Venezuela’s refineries are the main cause of fuel shortages.
Saab said the group, which included high-ranking personnel, were detained at a fuel filling plant in the northwestern Zulia state for diverting 1.9 million liters of gasoline and another million of diesel.
The shortage in diesel supply began at the end of last year. The country had already been suffering a generalized shortage of gasoline for months, pushing the government to import fuel from Iran and cut back on state subsidies dramatically. Diesel is still distributed to truck drivers for free.
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