Photo: Mario Pérez

The poor, the working class, professionals and students: No Venezuelan is safe from the transportation crisis. Caused by the shortage of supplies and parts that must be acquired with black market dollars, the scenario has paved the way for something only seen in those parts of the country where public transportation was already bad, the perreras, a phenomenon that, in the last two months, has left 26 dead according to the Public Transport Users Committee.

Authorities have been stalling and implementing trumped-up solutions (like enabling trucks to transport citizens) and folks, in their need to reach their homes or workplaces, climb on these vehicles and sometimes end slammed against the asphalt.  

The most recent death took place on June 14 in Caracas, when a 64-year-old man, desperate for a bus, chased a pick-up truck and slipped when he tried to climb on, hitting his head on the street. The most dramatic incident took place in Mérida on May 28, when a truck overturned, killing 11 passengers, nine of them were children.

Folks, in their need to reach their homes or workplaces, climb on these vehicles and sometimes end slammed against the asphalt.

Nobody’s been held accountable for these accidents. The Transport Ministry does nothing and in the case of Libertador, in Caracas, the response has been lacking and irresponsible. Chavista major, Érika Farías (a promoter of perreras —literally “dog pound trucks”), announced the creation of a municipal transport company without mentioning budget, the type of units it would provide or a date for implementation.

It makes sense: There’s no talk of compensating the victims either.

Services collapse

Esperanza García (53) has aged way beyond her years, not only because of the shortages of food, cash and water in her neighborhood, but also because of the fact that she no longer has the means to move from her home in La Vega to downtown Caracas, where her workplace is located.

Sometimes she walks over five kilometers, sometimes she climbs on a 350 truck. She may get on a bus after waiting for more than an hour, but fares are no longer fixed, so she must pay whatever price the driver sets.

There’s no public transport in Venezuela to move within cities or out of them. José Luis Trocel, executive secretary of the Inter-Union Transport Command, offered some figures: Out of the current fleet of 300,000 buses across the country, only 10% are working to carry over 12 million passengers in the country’s 24 states.

There’s no public transport in Venezuela to move within cities or out of them.

And we see it every day. Esperanza García is one of hundreds who must walk long distances, even across municipalities, to get to their destinations. People who live in Los Valles del Tuy, Vargas, the Guarenas-Guatire hub and the Miranda Heights and work in Caracas, are foregoing their workdays due to the everyday avatars of waiting in bus stops for over two hours without a transport unit showing up.

And the Caracas subway is just as bad. It’s been working with free turnstiles for nearly the entire year, when raw materials for the tickets disappeared. It has no air conditioning, but it has constant delays and blackouts. Authorities offer no explanations for this either.

Passengers are the feeble, vulnerable and powerless links in the chain of the debacle that scourges them, because public transport failures are just a side of the general decline in public services. Without water, power, medicines, food, cash or protection against crime, can we even say we have a government?

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