Passengers flying out of Maiquetia International Airport in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas now have to shell out a $20 tax for the air they breathe, BBC reported Thursday.
The authorities at the government-run Maiquetia airport are now charging 127 bolivars “to cover the cost of a newly installed air purification system” that supposedly uses ozone to clean the building’s air conditioning vents.
In a press release, the ministry of water and air transport said that the purification system not only “deodorizes and sanitizes” the building, it also “eliminates bacterial growth to protect the health of travellers.” They also added that Maiquetia is the first airport in South America to use the technology.
The move, which was initially met with incredulity and disbelief, eventually caused outrage among Venezuelans already burdened with an annual inflation rate of close to 60 percent, a high crime rate -- the country has the fifth-highest murder rate in the world -- and a general shortage of basic goods and services.
Many Venezuelans took to Twitter to react to the news.
— MaryAnn Johanson (@maryannjohanson) July 11, 2014
Main international airport in Venezuela has a new tax . They charge you for breathing..
— marujatarre (@marujatarre) July 2, 2014
Venezuela airport 'breathing' tax. "Toilets don't have water, air-con broken, stray dogs inside, but there's ozone?" http://t.co/XqRNMJK5ps
— Adveith Nair (@Adveith) July 11, 2014
Venezuela, which has the largest oil reserves in the world, has recently been rocked by a spate of protests against the Nicolas Maduro-led government.
The protests began in February in the western states of Tachira and Merida, following an alleged rape attempt on a female student in San Cristobal, the capital city of Tachira. They soon turned violent when three protesters in Caracas were shot dead by unidentified gunmen.
The country has since seen a series of sporadic protests and anti-government demonstrations. The protesters have demanded greater security for citizens, stringent action against corrupt officials, release of all those detained during the protests, and economic changes to control inflation and ease chronic food shortages.