PDVSA, the state-owned oil company, announced yesterday that it had become aware that a pipeline rupture had spilled 25,000 barrels of oil near the town of Santa Clara, Anzoategui state, and that it was taking steps to clean up the spill.

A PDVSA press release issued yesterday partially reads:

The company is conducting an action plan across eight control points, from Santa Clara to Atapirire, within a radius of more than 50 kilometers in which we have deployed specialized personnel…

The same release claims that PDVSA is also working closely with affected communities and providing them with “drinking water”.

News of the spill began to break on November 2, when National Assembly opposition deputy Antonio Barreto Sira announced that oil had begun leaking from a pipe in the region and had flowed “40 or 50 kilometers” down several rivers in the area.

Below, a video showing some of the spill and cleanup effort:

Below, more images from the spill:

Minister of Foreign Commerce: 2017 Looking Good

Minister of Foreign Commerce and Investment Jesus Faria said today that the government expects that the economy will begin to recover in 2017. Faria said:

Starting in 2017, there will be a progressive recovery of the economy and [Venezuela’s] productive apparatus.

While Faria did not provide any kind of explanation or evidence for his claim, he also said that this recover would allow the government to spend more money on social programs.

Faria also said that while inflation – which is expected to hit at least 700% this year, the highest rate in the world – is a complex issue to discuss, it is created partially by “parasitic economy groups” that directly cause prices to increase.

Steel Production Falls 78% From 2015

La Patilla reports that according to figures from the World Steel Association, Venezuela’s steel production fell 78% from January to September of this year compared to 2015.

According to the figures, Venezuela produced 1,051,000 tonnes of steel from January to September of 2015 at an average rate of 117,000 tonnes per month. From January to September of this year, Venezuela only produced 233,000 tonnes of steel at an average rate of 26,000 tonnes per month.

The dramatic drop in production is indicative of the slow death of the once-proud steel industry in the country. Aside from oil, steel has traditionally been an important export for Venezuela. SIDOR, the country’s largest steel producer, was nationalized in 2008 after months of labor disputes, a move that signaled the start of the collapse of steel production in the country.

In 2007, while SIDOR was still a private owned enterprise, Venezuela produced 5,005,000 tonnes of steel at an average rate of 417,083 tonnes per month.

U.S. Man’s Preliminary Hearing Set to Begin Today

The preliminary hearing of a U.S. citizen held in Venezuela on weapons chargers is set to begin in Caracas today. 24 year-old Josh Holt of Utah was arrested early this year after police allegedly found the man with an AK-47 rifle and grenades. Holt, a former Mormon missionary, traveled to Venezuela earlier this year to marry a woman he had met online with the goal of eventually moving back to the United States together.

Holt made headlines on June 11 when the Venezuelan media reported that a police search of his hotel room had yielded the assault rifle and grenades. However, The Miami Herald cites a witness to Holt’s arrest as saying that she, along with four other witnesses, personally saw the police plant the weapons in Holt’s room in order to frame him.

The woman told the newspaper:

The only reason they have him is because he’s a gringo… I don’t care what color his eyes are, what color his hair is, where his passport says he’s from — he’s innocent and his human rights are being violated

Holt’s lawyer says that the prosecution’s argument is based on the assertion that Holt traveled to Venezuela with the weapons for some nefarious purpose, and that the argument is absurd because it means that Holt had to have smuggled the assault rifle and grenades onto his flight to Venezuela, fooling both U.S. and Venezuelan customs officials.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com
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