ISSN 2330-717X

Venezuela: Oil Spill Hits Indigenous Communities

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Dozens of barrels of oil spilled into the Tascabaña and Guanipa Rivers following the Feb. 22 pipeline break in the northeastern Venezuelan state of Anzoátegui. The spill occurred in the Freites municipality, affecting the water, flora and fauna that the indigenous residents depend upon.

In a statement six days after the spill, state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, known as PDVSA, said that it would address the break “in record time” and called it “an alleged sabotage.”

But representatives of the Kariña indigenous people rejected that theory.

“We don’t share the view that it was sabotage,” Sair Martínez, governor of the indigenous community of Tascabaña I, was quoted as saying in newspaper El Nacional. “We are very upset about the situation because the pipelines are very old and should be replaced. It affects us when they use the word sabotage. In no way did we come to that and especially since we know it’s affecting our river.”

For his part, president of the Freites Municipal Chamber, Benito Machuca, said that residents of the indigenous communities drafted a list of demands for the government requesting indemnities for the affected residents and a full investigation into the “presumed sabotage.”

José Bodas, secretary general of Venezuela’s Oil Workers Federation, quoted by América Economía, said that the spill was addressed one week after it occurred.

According to Bodas, PDVSA is unable to give a quick response because of its financial situation and because officials ignored the warnings and reports by the affected communities.

Lawmaker Omar González Moreno visited with Bodas to show that the pipelines included were “deteriorating” and “there was no maintenance on them for years” and the accusation that they were purposefully attacked is a “means to try to hide the inefficiency in the oil industry.” He added that there were 12 oil spills between January 2011 and February 2012 in Anzoátegui.

Environment Minister Neira Fuenmayor said on March 1 that 70 percent of the affected waters have been cleaned and that the entire clean-up will finish by mid-March.

Latinamerica Press

Latinamerica Press is a product of Comunicaciones Aliadas, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Lima, Peru, specializing in the production of information and analysis about events across Latin America and the Caribbean with a focus on rights, while strengthening the communications skills of local social leaders.

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