CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela will announce a change of policy soon on gasoline, the finance minister said in an interview broadcast on Friday, signaling the OPEC nation is moving ahead with along-awaited hike in the world’s cheapest fuel.
Gasoline is so heavily subsidized in Venezuela that one US cent buys about five gallons, costing the government as much as $12 billion annually and spurring a lucrative business in smuggling fuel across the border to neighbouring Colombia.
President Nicolas Maduro has suggested a fuel price hike as a means of improving state finances amid a tumble in crude prices, but has repeatedly balked at doing so because many Venezuelans view cheap fuel as a birthright.
“Soon there will be important announcements on the issue of gasoline,” Marco said in an interview with regional television network Telesur. “A piece of candy cannot cost more than a litre of gasoline.”
The announcement, slammed by opposition sympathisers via social media, came on the eve of the carnival holiday during which Venezuelans are often on vacation.
It also followed a 70 per cent currency devaluation launched on Thursday.