Weary Venezuelans rely on 'dog cart' transports as buses succumb to crisis
By Vivian Sequera and Mayela Armas VALENCIA, Venezuela (Reuters) - On a recent afternoon, a crowd of hundreds massed on the sidewalk outside an exit from the subway in the central Venezuelan city of Valencia.
By Vivian Sequera and Mayela Armas
VALENCIA, Venezuela (Reuters) - On a recent afternoon, a crowd of hundreds massed on the sidewalk outside an exit from the subway in the central Venezuelan city of Valencia.
But when a flatbed truck previously used to transport water bottles pulled up nearby, a ruthless scramble kicked off with pregnant women, parents holding toddlers and elderly Venezuelans all jostling to get themselves aboard.
In this once-thriving industrial city as in much of the country, public buses have gradually disappeared due to scarce or prohibitively expensive tires, motor oil, batteries and spare parts.
Cargo trucks of all shapes and sizes have taken their place, but most lack even basic safety protections for human cargo and are increasingly associated with accidents and injuries to passengers - a further sign of the deteriorating quality of life in the crisis-stricken country.
The "dog carts," as they are informally known in Caracas, tend to squeeze standing passengers - mostly poor Venezuelans - into the backs of the large vehicles.
"It's tough. I'm tired on the way there, tired on the way back, I feel terrible," said exhausted homemaker Angelica Gomez, wiping sweat from her brow as she climbed into a flatbed truck with metal railings on the sides.
There are no exact records of how many cargo trucks circulate in different cities. Schedules and rates vary from one place to another as well.
Similar forms of transport have been common in developing countries and struggling economies in recent decades, but are rarely seen in oil-rich countries such as Venezuela. Other countries have also made an effort to provide safer public transit options.
The Information Ministry did not reply to an email seeking comment on this spontaneous mode of public transport.
But these cargo trucks are now nearly as common as passenger buses in Venezuela, where transport union leaders say a fleet that two years ago was estimated at of 280,000 vehicles has been whittled to just 30,000.
Similar stories abound in the country of 30 million people which is reeling from a fifth straight year of economic contraction and annual inflation estimated at some 46,305 percent in June.
Opposition lawmaker Nora Bracho estimates 39 people have died and around 275 have been injured so far this year in accidents involving unlicensed modes of public transit.
Accidents are often due to poorly maintained vehicles with bald tires or insufficient oil as well as reckless drivers, according to passengers and union leaders.
In violence-rife Venezuela, the chaos on these trucks can also be targeted by criminals.
Andreina Leal, a 36-year-old hairdresser, was robbed of her cellphone and cash during a recent trip on a truck in the western state of Tachira.
"I run the risk of falling, so I hang on tightly to the truck," said Leal as she waited for another truck to pick her up. "I was already robbed once because I was so focused on not falling."
Mechanic Rafael Castillo, 53, decided around a month ago to use his old truck to transport people as he needed cash.
Brushing aside worries about safety, he began picking up passengers in his truck, which has metal bars on the sides behind the cab since it was previously used to transport cattle.
"This is providing relief for people," said Castillo, as peopled climbed in. "There are no buses, this is a way for them to get home."
(Writing by Alexandra Ulmer, editing by G Crosse)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.
By Jessica Resnick-Ault NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices strengthened on Wednesday, as OPEC and its allies were seen complying with a pact to cut oil supply in September, even as concerns loomed that recovery in fuel demand will be stalled by soaring global coronavirus cases. Early in the day crude was boosted by a bullish stock market. Even as equities whipsawed on pandemic worries, oil stayed higher, buoyed by expectations that OPEC could staunch a supply glut
By Tina Bellon and C Nivedita (Reuters) - Tesla Inc will further cut the price of its Model S "Long Range" sedan in the United States to $69,420, the electric carmaker's chief executive, Elon Musk, announced in a tweet https://bit.ly/2H0JCP0 on Wednesday. The anticipated drop marks the second time this week Tesla has cut the price for the high-end sedan, following a 4% cut of the Model S's price in the United States on Tuesday to $71,990.
By Jeff Mason DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Under siege over his handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump on Wednesday cited what he said was his son's mild bout of the virus as a reason why American schools should reopen as soon as possible. Trump made the comment about his son, Barron, as the president swept into Iowa on a mission to shore up support in battleground states that he won in 2016 but is in danger of losing to Democrat Joe Biden barely three weeks before the election. First lady Melania Trump announced in a statement earlier in the day that the virus that struck both her and her husband had also infected their 14-year-old son