NPR

Venezuela's Fuel Shortage Upends Longtime Colombian Border Gas Smuggling Trade

Motorists near Colombia's border with Venezuela used to opt for cheaper, smuggled gas from the neighboring country. Now the tables have turned.
Contraband fuel sits on the side of a road in Puerto Santander, Colombia, on May 31, 2019. The Venezuelan government's lack of cash to import gasoline combined with U.S. sanctions targeting the oil sector have led to chronic fuel shortages in Venezuela. That has upended a long-running, lucrative contraband gas trade. Source: Ivan Valencia

Venezuela's worst economic meltdown in history has had a huge impact on neighboring Colombia, where hospitals, schools and welfare agencies are dealing with 2 million Venezuelan refugees. But the crisis has produced at least one silver lining for Colombia: the curtailing of gasoline smuggling.

For decades, Colombian motorists along the border eschewed gas stations to fill their tanks with cheaper, smuggled Venezuelan fuel. The practice gave rise to powerful smuggling mafias while local governments lost out on gasoline taxes.

Now, however, Venezuela's oil industry has on the black market and that there's no more cheap fuel left to resell in Colombia.

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