Mérida, 27th August 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – A year on from the deadly gas explosion which left 42 dead and 120 wounded, the Venezuelan government has claimed there is “overwhelming” proof that the disaster was caused by a deliberate act of sabotage.
The industrial disaster took place on 25 August 2012 in Venezuela’s largest oil refinery at Amuay, Falcon state, shocking the country and hitting international headlines.
Late President Hugo Chavez ordered an immediate technical investigation into the causes of the explosion, which authorities believe resulted from a gas leak.
While the official investigation is still in progress, the government maintains that the disaster was caused by an act of sabotage by the conservative opposition, presumably in a bid to dampen the popularity of Hugo Chavez in the lead up to the October 2012 presidential election.
Speaking on Saturday, President Maduro claimed that the government now has proof that the Amuay explosion was “sabotage”.
“It’s confirmed, I want to announce it…it was a sabotage by desperate sectors, because they believed that by setting a refinery on fire they would beat Chavez in the elections,” he said.
“The proof will be shown in the coming days; it is the result of a technical investigation of international character that was undertaken. The right-wing doesn’t have scruples in causing damage to the nation,” declared the Venezuelan president.
Oil and energy minister Rafael Ramirez echoed Maduro’s comments while on a visit to the Amuay refinery on Sunday, where the government reports that the damage has now been largely repaired.
“I must say this responsibly. We have all the evidence which demonstrates that our oil industry was sabotaged again, and from this came the terrible tragedy which involved a painful loss of life for our people,” the minister stated.
Meanwhile the opposition argues that the government is to blame for the disaster, alleging lack of investment and maintenance in the oil industry.
“Maduro invents the sabotage thesis to cover up the bad operations and lack of maintenance that exist inside the [Amuay] plant,” said Eddie Ramirez, the national coordinator of the pro-opposition “People of Oil” organisation.
However in comments to press made earlier this month, Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz said that the official investigation had still not been able to determine the causes of the disaster.
So far 412 interviews have been conducted with experts and witnesses, and 166 inspections and technical tests have been undertaken with 40 remaining to be done along with other tests, the top lawyer reported.
“We trust that soon we’ll have definitive results,” she added, without giving a specific time frame of when the investigation will be completed.