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Venezuela Charges U.S. Citizen With Spying

Venezuela has charged a U.S. citizen arrested recently on allegations of spying with plotting terrorist attacks on oil refineries and the country’s electricity supply to incite unrest, the Associated Press reports.

According to Venezuela’s Chief Prosecutor, Tarek William Saab, the suspect, Matthew John Heath, had help from three Venezuelans. These were also arrested last week near two oil refineries. Prosecutors seized phone images of alleged targets as well as equipment they said included a grenade launcher, plastic explosives, and a satellite phone.

“Everything here could qualify as a lethal weapon designed to cause harm and to promote assassinations, crimes against the people of Venezuela,” Saab said on Venezuelan television. The prosecution also alleged Heath had links to the CIA. The man has been accused of planning to sabotage the Amuay and Cardon refineries. Neither of these produces gasoline right now, with Venezuela reliant on imports from Iran.

Venezuela has been suffering shortages of both fuel and electricity, the former graver than the latter, as some of its refineries are shut down and the rest operate far below capacity. In August, Reuters reported PDVSA had restarted gasoline production at the Cardon refinery, but according to the AP report on the arrests, it has stopped again.

Venezuela has total refining capacity of 1.3 million bpd of crude but the cash crunch at PDVSA and the national economy, the crumbling industry, and years of lack of investment in maintenance and repairs have taken their toll.

A few days before the AP report of the arrests, Venezuela’s President said the police had captured a suspected U.S. spy who had been with the U.S. Marines and with the CIA, operating in Iraq. The official charges against him include terrorism, trafficking of illegal weapons, and conspiracy.

Earlier this year, the Venezuelan authorities thwarted an attack by local rebels helped by former U.S. special forces servicemen that aimed at capturing Maduro.

By Michael Kern for Oilprice.com

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