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Assailants Murder Venezuela Oil Tanker Captain

Six armed men who boarded an oil tanker off the Venezuelan coast killed the captain and injured a sergeant from the coast guard that was guarding the tanker, media reported, citing the local port authority.

Reuters noted in its report that crime in Venezuela has thrived amid the economic crisis, with criminals regularly stealing oilfield equipment from wells in western Venezuela. Earlier reports said the foreign companies to which PDVSA has more or less handed control over oil production were hiring private security forces to guard the fields.

“This is a demonstration of the insecurity we face, which is also present in the oil fields and undoubtedly impacted production,” a union leader for oil workers, Jose Bodas, told Reuters in an interview. Bodas also said the tanker had been en route to the Jose port where it was due to load crude oil and added this was the first attack of this sort in eastern Venezuela.

Venezuela produced around 733,000 bpd last month, according to OPEC’s secondary sources, almost unchanged on December. This is down from an average of 793,000 bpd for 2019 and from more than 1.35 million bpd in 2018 before the U.S. launched its sanction offensive against Caracas.

Earlier this month President Nicolas Maduro declared what he called an energy emergency, saying the government will take urgent steps to fight the crisis although he was short on the details.

“I declare an emergency situation in the oil industry by constitutional and presidential decree in order to take urgent and necessary measures to ensure the country's energy security and protect the industry from imperialist aggression,” Maduro said.

The Venezuelan president went on to blame the situation on the U.S. saying, “The sanctions, the blockade - I will not accept any more excuses. I am signing a decree to declare an energy emergency in the hydrocarbons industry in order to adapt necessary and urgent measures to guarantee national energy security and protect the industry from imperialist aggression.”

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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