Maduro’s moves could help delay an eventual reckoning by reducing economic activity to a crawl, said Russ Dallen, the Miami-based head of Caracas Capital Markets brokerage. While Venezuela sits atop the world’s largest crude reserves, its ability to refine crude is practically non-existent after years of mismanagement, so it depends on gasoline imports to keep the economy running.

“He’s shutting down everything,” said Dallen. “That’s the easiest way to cover up the fact that he’s got no money and there’s no gasoline coming in.”