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Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro has accused the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency of corrupting hundreds of oil industry employees, including former Energy Minister and Venezuela representative of the UN Rafael Ramirez.
"There are thousands of cases of infiltration into the oil industry through the US Embassy here in Venezuela. If they bribed the head of the oil industry, corrupted him, lured [former Energy Minister and former Representative to the UN] Rafael Ramirez away, what can you think about the current level of infiltration into the oil industry?" Maduro said during a press conference that he posted on Twitter.
"We are gradually clearing the industry of these agents," he added, as quoted by Sputnik.
Meanwhile, however, the Venezuelan government has been cracking down on dissenters among PDVSA's employees. In November, the military intelligence agency and the national intelligence service made two arrests of one active and one retired employee, accusing the latter of terrorism. The arrest followed an explosion at the Amuay refinery, which has a capacity of 645,000 bpd. Maduro claimed the explosion was the result of a terrorist attack.
The arrests, according to sources from the company, were in fact an attempt to silence dissenters who were complaining about the dangerous working conditions at PDVSA and the corruption running rife at the company. According to some sources, PDVSA employees would readily accept bribes to keep quiet about thefts of crude oil from idled wells just to make ends meet as their salaries were worth little amid Venezuela's hyperinflation.
Also in November, the authorities arrested the leader of the oil workers' union FUTPV, Eudis Girot, one of the most vocal critics of the way PDVSA was run. According to other union officials, Girot was held on allegations of terrorism and the divulgence of confidential information.
Leaks about the state of neglect and dangerous conditions at PDVSA often end up in media outlets, which cite internal PDVSA sources. As the situation continues to deteriorate, the government appears to have decided the time had come to crack down on the dissent.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com