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Friday, 25 June, 2021

At least seven oil spills registered on the Venezuelan coast during 2020

Paradisiac keys, turtle-nesting beaches, a National Park: it was all affected by oil.

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By Lisbeth Barboza Ruiz.

Environmental groups, neighbors, marine biologists, officials, and NGOs alerted and provided detail about each of the oil spills recorded between August 1 and December 18 on the coast of Falcon and Carabobo states. All of them involving refineries, pipelines, and other facilities of state oil company PDVSA.

El Pitazo counted seven spills in the two main refineries in the Falcon-Carabobo coastal region that affected the Venezuelan coasts. All of them occurred in just four months, from August to December.

In 2020, citizens, environmentalists, and politicians reported several spills in Falcon from the Cardon refinery on the Paraguana Peninsula and other facilities such as El Palito in Carabobo. As a consequence of these accidents, the Falcon coasts and especially the ecosystem of Morrocoy National Park have been affected.

The communities initially noticed the presence of oil spots in waters of Golfo Triste, between the towns of Boca de Aroa and Tucacas, in Rio Seco, and on the Paraguana Peninsula, which triggered the alarms of the environmental groups.

Even the Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, referred to this oil spill and pointed out that little official information about the incidents.

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The Azul Ambientalistas foundation pointed out in its social media that, according to the laboratory of Remote Sensors of the Simon Bolívar University, in an extension of approximately 260 kilometers, in front of the El Palito refinery, there were tracks and traces of hydrocarbons, meaning oil.

No official explanations

After four months, PDVSA has not explained the causes of the oil spill in Morrocoy. There is no official statement or information about the result of the tests collected on the beaches affected.

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During a virtual forum, the Venezuelan Society of Ecology assured that the spill would have occurred between July 19 and 22 at the El Palito refinery, according to the images shared by a satellite. The hydrocarbon advanced by the effect of the winds and currents that moved it to the Golfo Triste and Morrocoy National Park.

The Minister of Ecosocialism, Oswaldo Barbera, stated in mid-August that the incident did not affect the marine flora and fauna of Morrocoy.

Barbera assured that the beaches of Morrocoy were cleaned up and were fit after the oil spill, a statement endorsed by Inparques, the national parks institute. It did not mention who was responsible, nor if an environmental impact study was carried out on the coast.

But, Henderson Colina, an expert in sustainable development and member of the Association of Ecologists for the Preservation of the Environment (Aepa in Spanish), said that the ecological damages would remain for at least 30 years in the coastal zone from Falcon.

237 oil spills in the last 12 years

Aepa Falcon has documented 237 oil spills in the last 12 years in the Cardon and Amuay refineries, with the former and current directors of state oil company PDVSA, an oil company. In the opinion of Colina, the oil company has always worked without paying attention to the environment and the communities.

Spokespersons from the Ministry of Ecosocialism and the Falcon Governor’s Office contradicted themselves on the number of kilometers affected by the oil spill. Minister Barbera reported on August 4 that it was four kilometers. The regional secretary of the government in Falcón, Henry Hernández, said on a radio station that it was seven kilometers that were being cleaned up by volunteers and crews from Inparques and PDVSA.

On September 8, fishermen from Rio Seco denounced a three-day-old oil slick that was expanding fasting. It was proven that it came from a broken underwater oil pipeline that reached the Cardon refinery in Paraguana.

Satellite images analyzed by the head of the Center for Biodiversity at the Simon Bolivar University, Eduardo Klein, also warned other spills at the Cardon refinery and El Palito in October, November, and last December.

The most recent one was denounced by Maria Gabriela Hernandez, deputy of the National Assembly. This was the seventh registered in less than three months in the Cardon, Amuay, and El Palito refineries.

The directive of the technical and scientific committees of the Venezuelan Federation of Subaquatic Activities demanded that the authorities of PDVSA and the National Executive explain to the national public opinion the causes and scope of the critical damage to the coastal marine environment in the eastern coast of Falcon.

Gustavo Carrasquel, general director of the Azul Ambientalistas Foundation, explained that the process of cleaning up the affected area, which totaled seven kilometers, would take between six months and a year.

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