Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro claimed Friday that an “American spy” was arrested in the country for attempting to sabotage oil refineries with explosives.
“Yesterday we captured … an American spy who was spying in Falcon state on the Amuay and Cardon refineries,” Maduro said.
He said that the person arrested was “a Marine who was serving as a Marine at CIA bases in Iraq,” and added that the person had “heavy weapons” and “large amounts of cash.”
“The gringo empire wants revenge against Venezuela,” Maduro said. “It wants to prevent Venezuela from producing all petroleum products, gasoline.”
The arrest occurred after authorities “discovered and dismantled” on Wednesday a “plan to cause an explosion” at the El Palito refinery near the capital city of Caracas, Maduro said.
The unsubstantiated claim that an American was in the country attempting to sabotage fuel distribution in Venezuela comes as the country deals with fuel shortages, despite its rich oil reserves.
NPR laid out Venezuela’s situation in a report published Thursday.
According to NPR’s John Otis, “Venezuela’s oil industry has collapsed.”
“Many of its refineries have shut down while the government’s lack of cash to import gasoline, combined with U.S. sanctions targeting the oil sector, have led to chronic fuel shortages,” Otis said.
“That means Venezuelans now pay as much as $10 a gallon on the black market and that there’s no more cheap fuel left to resell in Colombia.”
But once-wealthy Venezuela has become the epitome of socialist decline since its government began a process of nationalizing the fuel industry in 1976, Forbes reported.
Late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez helped drive the country’s entire economy into the ground beginning in the late 1990s.
The oil industry went from boom to bust in a period of a decade or so.
Despite sitting on oil reserves that could see the country prosper, poverty has stricken the one-time South American petroleum powerhouse.
Citizens are plagued by food, medicine and fuel shortages.
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