Oil belonging to Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime in Venezuela washed up on the beaches of the country’s western Falcón state this weekend, causing potentially massive damage to the local ecosystem, according to satellite images.
Satellite images uploaded to Twitter by the vessel-tracking service TankerTrackers.com showed the black slick off the coast of Falcón state, known for its pristine beaches and tourism.
Based on the data we have now reviewed along with an AIS playback, we have good reason to believe that a cargo vessel departing from #LaGuaira, #Venezuela has spilled its fuel oil following a possible failure. Vessel is currently broadcasting "not under command". #OOTT #OilSpill https://t.co/I0xIWlPR20
— TankerTrackers.com, Inc.⚓️ (@TankerTrackers) August 2, 2020
The chair of the National Assembly’s environmental committee — the only legitimate lawmaking body left in Venezuela — Maria Hernández, warned about the effect on both the environment and water supplies.
“This affects one of our most exquisite coastlines, which is very important for tourism,” Hernandez told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Victoria González, the Falcón coordinator for the environmental advocacy group Fundación Azul Ambientalistas (Blue Environmentalist Foundation), added to the news agency that the slick would threaten life within Morrocoy National Park.
“It will affect the tourism and fishing sectors, which are the principal sources of income for the towns along the coast,” González said. “In the case of oil, a simple cleanup is not enough. It remains on coasts and in bodies of water over time.”
“Satellite image from 4th August 11:30 am,” the South Caribbean Foundation noted on Twitter Tuesday. “The red arrow indicates the position of the spillage. Much of the oil has not yet reached the Falcón coast.”
Imagen del satélite GOES @NOAA de hoy #4Ago 11:30am. La flecha roja indica la posición del #derrame. Gran parte del petróleo derramado aún no ha llegado a la costa de Falcón. @PDVSA #NoMasDerrames #NoMoreOilSpills #OilSpill pic.twitter.com/8drDkSvxvv
— Fundación Caribe Sur (@CaribeSurOrg) August 4, 2020
The Maduro regime has so far refused to comment on the incident. However, a source within the state-run Petroleum of Venezuela (PDSVA) confirmed to Reuters that the oil likely spilled from a ship’s fuel tank and that the company would assist in the cleanup.
As well as the potentially devastating environmental impact of the oil itself, the incident represents the latest embarrassment to the Maduro regime as the country struggles with widespread gasoline shortages that are forcing people to wait hours or even days to fill up their vehicles.
As a result of the shortages, many Venezuelans have held fuel protests in recent months demanding an end to shortages. Despite having the largest oil reserves in the world after the United States, the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis has led to a drastic decline in oil production. In June, overall production reportedly fell for the sixth month running, decreasing by a further 32 percent, forcing authorities to import reserves from allies such as Russia, China, and Iran.
Venezuelans are now also required to provide biometric data when filling up, checked against the government’s database using the “Fatherland Card,” developed by communist China as a way of spying on citizens’ behavior and spending habits. Although fuel prices are still relatively low (around $0.025 a liter), this is still extremely costly for the millions of people living on just a few dollars a month. The regime charges those who exceed the quota they set at $0.50 per liter, meaning only the wealthy can afford to buy a full gas tank.