Venezuela, home to the world's cheapest price to fill up an automobile, could see prices rise as the government looks to cut subsidies and prevent the economy from getting worse. Conway G. Gittens reports.
EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS MATERIAL THAT WAS ORIGINALLY 4:3 Venezuelans could soon experience sticker shock when fueling up. The Latin American country is facing the first potential rise in gasoline prices in almost two decades. Subsidies from the left-leaning government have resulted in Venezuelans paying less than a whole U.S. dollar to fill up their tanks, making it the cheapest place to fill up in the world. But that may be coming to an end under new President Nicolas Maduro as government finances teeter. SOUNDBITE: VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT NICOLAS MADURO, (SPANISH WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION) SAYING: "It is not a need for resources, in any case it is to correct a problem that all Venezuelans have which is that we are giving away gasoline, we are paying more than giving away, paying for the consumption of hydrocarbon and that is an element that we must correct this year, and the coming years, one day it must be corrected and corrected without social or political disturbances and with a national consensus." Removing hefty gas subsidies is not without risks for consumers used to paying barely nothing. The government spends about $12-1/2 billion a year to keep prices so low. There was a mixed reaction in the streets of Caracas. SOUNDBITE: JAIME LASARTE, CARACAS RESIDENT, (SPANISH WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION) SAYING: "I think it is uncalled for because the government is giving away gasoline abroad, to Cuba and it subsidizes gasoline to many countries, and here they want to raise the price." SOUNDBITE: SARAY KEPP, UNIVERSITY STUDENT, (SPANISH WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION) SAYING: "Currently, in reality gasoline is cheaper than water. It's not a bad thing that they raise the price a bit but at the same time they can't raise it very much." Maduro is in a tight spot. With his approval rating already in the dumps, below 40 percent, he could rock his core base of poor Venezuelans - but if he doesn't do something fast to rein in spending, the whole economy could slide further into disarray.