By Les Blough in Venezuela. Axis of Logic
Last night in the state of Carabobo, 2 refinery tanks caught fire at the El Palito refinery in the northern coastal city of Puerto Cabello. Energy Minister, Rafael Ramirez immediately reported that the 2 naptha tanks were "were struck by lightening," during a storm. This morning Ramirez said they put one of the fires out and were working to extinguish the second tank with foam dispensing trucks. He added that there was no blast or explosion.
|2 Naptha tanks were set afire last night in El Palito. The government's Energy Minister, Raphael Ramirez stated they were stuck by lightening.
Less than a month ago the refinery at Amuay, also on the northern coast, was destroyed in a massive explosion that killed 48 people. That explosion is still under investigation by government intelligence services.
In July of this year, the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PdVSA signed a deal with a group of engineering companies to expand El Palito over the next four years to double its refining capacity.
|Map shows the locations of the Amuay and El Palito refineries on Venezuela's northern coast.
When the Amuay Refinery was destroyed the western corporate media immediately issued what appeared to be scripted statements around the world, blaming the Venezuelan government for negligence in not maintaining equipment and not using proper safety procedures in their petroleum industry. The U.S.-backed opposition in Venezuela seized upon this line of attack in their campaign for the presidency this year. At the onset of the Amuay investigation, President Chavez stated,
“You can’t exclude any hypothesis … It’s practically impossible that here in an [oil] installation like this which is fully automated everywhere and that has thousands of responsible workers night and day, civilian and military, and that there is a gas leak for 3 or 4 days and nobody responds. This is impossible.”
Axis of Logic wrote and published a number of articles, suggesting that the Amuay Refinery was sabotaged, including James Petras' analysis, "Venezuela’s Oil Refinery Blaze: Seven Good Reasons to Suspect Sabotage."
On July 22nd well before the explosion at the Amuay refinery, a statement made by an operative within the U.S. Embassy in Caracas and reported by a journalist at the embassy, predicted a future “extraordinary event” which would reduce or eliminate President Chavez' double digit lead over his rival, Capriles Radonski, in the presidential elections on October 7.
On August 10, 2012, Venezuelan security forces captured a U.S. Marine(with the look and demeanor of a mercenary according to government reports) entering the country illegally from Colombia carrying a notebook with geographical coordinates which the Marine attempted to destroy during his capture. He is still being held in Caracas and refuses to answer any questions during interrogation. Many Venezuelans raised the reasonable question whether others on a similar mission made it into the country successfully. At that time, President Chavez issued the following statement:
"A group of the bourgeoisie is preparing to reject the people's triumph, that's very clear. [They] are going to try to plunge the country into a political crisis and fill the country with violence. I urge everybody to be very alert."
Immediately following the Amuay explosion, Venezuelan Energy Minister, Rafael Ramirez called it an "accident" and the imperialist media launched 'round the clock attacks on the government for negligence.
Ramirez immediately issued statements last night saying that the fires at the El Palito refinery tanks struck by lightening during a storm on the Caribbean.
Already today, Reuters reporting on the El Palito fires, stated,
"PDVSA has suffered a string of accidents and outages across its refinery network in recent years. Critics say President Hugo Chavez's socialist government is under-investing in the oil industry because it diverts so much crude revenue to welfare programs."
Given the capture of the Marine on August 10; the warning recorded by the journalist in the U.S. Embassy; the sabotage of the nation's oil industry in 2002-2003; the U.S. history of sabotage and violence against the Venezuelan government and attempts to undermine the presidency of Hugo Chavez and the timing of the events at Amuay and El Palito (presidential elections), the cause of these explosions and fires remain open questions. Normally, when events like these occur governments issue statements that the cause is "under investigation." We suggest that Ramirez' rapid attributions of the Amuay destruction to "an accident" and the fires at El Palito to a lightening strike have been due to either his media incompetence when dealing with a hostile international press - or the government's sensitivity to the upcoming elections on October 7, 2012.
- Les Blough in Venezuela