Chavismo on wheels

Brother, Can You Spare a Tire?

In early April, a close relative of mine was looking everywhere for new tires. He hasn’t found anything yet.

At least he isn’t the only one caught in this pickle. Car tires are part of the long, long list of stuff that is currently lacking in this country.

People are doing the impossible to find them. Some are even willing to wait hours and hours in a line just to buy a single tire. And if that doesn’t prove how desperate things are, there’s what happened earlier this month in San Felix (Bolivar State) when a mob took on a tire truck like piranhas to a rack of lamb.

The root of the problem is (as expected) the fall in domestic production and the lack of currency to either reactivate local factories or bring enough imports to satisfy demand. Representatives of three major tire brands have met with government representatives, but they didn’t get any specifics about when they will get the resources to keep working.

But another factor is affecting the vehicle tire market: Proveeduria (Procurement)

What’s that?

It’s a state-led initiative thought up the central government back in 2013 to directly provide spare parts and tires to public and cargo transportation drivers, under the control of the Transportation Ministry. At the beginning, those State procurement stores got their tires from illegal units that were seized by the authorities.

But in March of this year, Land Transportation Minister Haiman El Troudi published an administrative order in which tiremakers are forced to sell 20% of production to proveedurias in order to keep public transportation up and running.

In recent weeks, some public transport drivers have complained that they face lots and lots of time waiting in the proveedurias for tires and spare parts, and that supply isn’t enough. Others hinted at how the bachaqueros are benefiting from this, as they protest both the limits on what they can buy and the prices they are forced to pay up.

But tires are not the only concern for drivers nationwide: spare parts in general are scarce, and the autoparts sector says that they can’t solve the problem without a huge price increase. Repair shops are facing shutdown, some have closed shop already.