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Venezuela starts importing oil

Venezuela, a major exporter of crude oil for decades, has started importing oil to meet domestic demand that it cannot currently fulfill.

It is the first time in the century-long history of Venezuela’s state-owned oil industry that it has imported oil, and it is focusing on Russia and Algeria, USA Today reports.

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Venezuela has hundreds of millions of barrels of extra-heavy crude. But it needs to dilute that with lighter varieties from elsewhere in order to refine it or sell it elsewhere, USA Today said.

In addition, other countries’ massive reserves, including the United States’, is driving oil prices down internationally, causing Venezuela to lose more money.

Compounding the problem is the fact that Petroleos de Venezuela, the state-owned oil monopoly, had long been used by late president Hugo Chávez to fund social programs throughout the country, and for political expenses.

The government is trying to downplay the news, calling it part of an “economic war” being fought against Venezuela aimed at subverting its government.

The imports have citizens worried that the country could run out of oil, as it has with other basic necessities like toilet paper, medicine and food.

The country is now producing about 2.7 million barrels of oil a day, down 13 percent from when Chávez took office in 1999, USA Today said.