Venezuela’s Oil Workers Say Lake Maracaibo Region Crumbling Due To Neglect

Oil plant Venezuela
Isla Oil Refinery PDVSA terminal is seen in Willemstad on the island of Curacao, February 22, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo)

Oil workers under Venezuela's state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) have started speaking up on the reported crumbling of the Maracaibo region despite the country's resource-rich history. They said funds for maintaining the oil firm's equipment have been misused.

In an interview with CNN, some of the company's oil workers revealed that evidence of neglect is apparent in thick layers of oil sludge in Lake Maracaibo's shores. "Populism finished all of this. Do you see this! Nothing works anymore. The government finished us completely," a PDVSA worker, Hector Berti, said of the devastated area.

Berti revealed that has was laid off for speaking up on the issues that have been resulting in neglected oil equipment. Other oil workers only agreed to share their experiences on the condition of anonymity due to fear of potential tracking by Venezuelan intelligence.

Venezuela was once rich in oil but over the past years, government administrations used PDVSA profits for other programs outside the oil company. The United States has accused leaders in the country of using the once-powerful oil firm to provide luxury for their families.

The Americas was a region that Venezuela used to supply largely with oil. The U.S. has sanctioned Venezuela, resulting to zero barrels exported to the world's largest economy last month.

Incumbent president Nicolas Madura has denied accusations of misusing PDVSA funds. He said the United States was conspiring against his country. "They sabotage us and try to destroy the economic system," he stressed.

As if shifting away from the oil industry due to increased scrutiny from the west, Maduro said on social media last week that Venezuela's onion sector is growing. He praised the country's onion harvest. However, analysts pointed out that Venezuelans these days can't afford this product.

Economists further noted that other countries are working to improve infrastructure and technology but Venezuela chooses to live in traditional agriculture. Furthermore, Maduro made the decision at a time when it should be restructuring to rebuild its oil industry.

Oil-dependent countries have also started turning away from Venezuela due to earlier reports of oil industry mismanagement. Some countries are also avoiding the political dispute in Venezuela and are looking to get supply from the country's neighboring oil providers.

Among the countries gradually replacing Venezuela as a major oil supplier in Brazil. In the first quarter of this year, Brazil increased its oil exports to China. It is expected that Brazilian oil exports and production will see a hike in the coming months.

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