Mérida, March 21st 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has urged the Supreme Court and the public prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, to investigate the private media and opposition spokespeople for “spreading information about supposed contamination of some of the country’s water supplies” and called it “war propaganda”.
“I’ve been watching this closely… the opposition’s fear agenda has got to extreme levels…I was watching a right wing governor saying that all the water that is consumed in the centre of the country is contaminated, well, this governor will have to assume the consequences,” Chavez said, referring to the governor of Carabobo state, Henrique Salas.
Last week Salas said that the water plant in his state was sending contaminated water to the central states of Venezuela and blamed the supposed situation for an apparent increase in infected water type illnesses. Since then, a range of opposition spokespeople and private newspapers have emitted various claims regarding water contamination and drinkability.
Private national paper El Universal quoted state legislator German Benedetti as saying that the Carabobo water plant’s “high chemical levels were in order to hide the contamination”. He said the water contained “nitrogen, nitrate, aluminium, and trihalomethanes, capable of causing …memory loss, dementia, damage to the central nervous system, severe shaking, Alzheimer’s, vitamin A deficiency, osteoporosis, and even cancer”.
Tal Cual’s editorial headline was “Toxic water”, with a drawing of oil, or a black liquid, coming out of a water tank, while El Nacional’s headline was “80% of the capital’s water is in danger of contamination”.
Chavez said such misinformation was a “crime” and that it “can’t be tolerated, we can’t be the silly republic”.
“It’s very serious, it’s an attack on the mental and physical health of the people… a crime, it can’t be tolerated, we have to act, open up an investigation…and the opposition have to show their evidence,” Chavez said.
“This is how fear starts, and that is [media] terrorism,” he said.
Luigina Cercio, of the Carabobo water plant’s board, reminded press that in 2010 a joint commission between the national government and the Carabobo state government (controlled by the opposition and Salas) certified the quality of the water.
“All of the tests carried out…on the plant itself and its distribution networks, showed that the water was in good condition and apt for human consumption,” she said, adding that of the 26 categories, only two were not within the range established by World Health Organisation standards.
The two out of range were aluminium and chlorine. Cercio explained that chlorine was for disinfecting water, something most Venezuelan’s also do by boiling their water, and that the aluminium level was 0.6mg per litre, a level that is “not detrimental to the health”.
Environment minister Alejandro Hitcher said yesterday that now 96% of the population has access to tap water, and 99%, “even 100%” of urban populations have it. He said that in order to reach those levels, over the last 13 years the government has increased water treatment, repaired water plants, pumps, and pipes and built new aqueducts.
In 1999, according to the minister, “after ten years of un-investment in water” 55% of residents in “exclusion zones” lacked access to drinking water. In urban areas, access was 82%, “but it was a deficient service for 48%,” Hitcher said.
“There was water once a week in Caracas and the inhabitants of El Junquito [a suburb in Caracas] denounced that they were supplied with it three or four times a year,” he said. However, he added that while water services have improved, sometimes there are “problems with continuity” and for that the government is constructing extra piping, which he said would be finished in May, November, and February of next year, depending on the region.