Venezuela Oil Workers Selling Possessions to Survive

Venezuela Oil Workers Selling Possessions to SurviveVenezuela Oil Workers Selling Possessions to Survive

For decades, jobs at Venezuela's state-run oil giant PDVSA were coveted for above average salaries, generous benefits and cheap credit that brought home ownership and vacationing abroad within reach for many workers.

Now, in Venezuela's asphyxiating economy, even PDVSA employees are struggling to pay for everything from food and bus rides to school fees as triple-digit inflation eats away incomes, Reuters reported.

They are pawning goods, maxing out credit cards, taking side jobs and even selling PDVSA uniforms to buy food, according to Reuters' interviews with two dozen workers, family members, and union leaders.

"Every day a PDVSA worker comes to sell his overall," said Elmer, a hawker at the biggest market in the oil city of Maracaibo, as shoppers eyed pricey rice and flour imported from neighboring Colombia. "They also sell boots, trousers, gloves and masks."

"Sometimes we let the kids sleep in until noon to save on breakfast," said a maintenance worker who works on the shores of Maracaibo Lake, Venezuela's traditional oil-producing area near the Colombian border.

"Most of us aren't as productive as we used to be, because we're more focused on how to survive economically," said the maintenance worker.

That adds to a wide array of problems caused by a cash shortfall - from underinvestment and part shortages to poor maintenance, theft and insufficient imports for blending.

As a result, the OPEC member's oil output tumbled this year, dealing another blow to the government of President Nicolas Maduro, already under pressure due to globally low oil prices.

A former PDVSA worker, who quit earlier this year because he could earn more driving a taxi, said that over the past months he sold four overalls and one pair of boots to feed his three children. He bartered another pair of boots for meat. He also sold his furniture, including his dining table, to buy food.

Further north at the massive Paraguana refining center, a mechanic and a father of two, recently offloaded new boots for roughly $7 - "cheap, so I could sell quickly and get food."

Despite their anger, workers say they are scared to protest.

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