OPEC data show Venezuela oil output in free fall

AFP-JIJI

Venezuelan oil production crashed to a new 30-year low of 1.5 million barrels a day in June, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said on Wednesday.

The South American nation earns 96 percent of its revenue through oil sales but a lack of foreign exchange has sparked economic paralysis that has left the country suffering serious shortages of food and medicine.

The government of socialist President Nicolas Maduro has told state oil company PDVSA to increase production in the country, which sits atop the world’s largest reserves of crude.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Venezuela’s economic collapse is one of the worst in modern history. The economy has shrunk 45 percent since 2013 and the IMF expects it to contract 15 percent in 2018 alone, with inflation reaching 13,800 percent.

Only once during the last 30 years did crude production dip lower, but that was during a brief industry strike from December 2002 to February 2003.

Maduro’s government blames the current crash on PDVSA mismanagement amidst a spate of recent corruption cases and a dip in investments due to a lack of funds.

It also points the finger at the United States, which has imposed financial sanctions on the country and individual companies.

But experts put declining production down to the government’s using PDVSA revenues to plug its fiscal deficit.

Last November, several rating agencies declared Venezuela and the PDVSA in partial default.