Buyers find it nearly impossible to get a car in Venezuela

Caracas, Jun 24 (EFE).- Buying a car is little short of impossible in Venezuela, a country where a used vehicle is more expensive than a new one, with the drop in production blamed on lack of access to foreign currency and with the government trying to resolve the problem with a law that has sparked controversy before it has even been passed.

The reasons can be found, according to industry executives, in the meager offer and high demand, which for thousands of Venezuelans has turned the dream of buying a car into a nightmare that includes endless trips from one distributor to another, months of waiting and even meetings with the "mafia."

The high demand is explained in part by the soaring inflation, which last year reached 20.1 percent and so far this year has piled on another 19.4 percent, which creates the unusual situation of an auto purchase being seen as an investment to protect one's savings.

The government blames the situation on "speculation" by distributors and is ready to crack down on owners of assembly plants and vehicle importers with a law awaiting approval in the National Assembly, which also includes a provision for controlling car prices.

In the first five months this year, according to figures of the Automotive Chamber of Venezuela, or Cavenez, 31,153 vehicles were produced, some 34.3 percent fewer than in the same period last year.