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Venezuela Oil Union Leader Accuses Maduro Of Persecution

A senior Venezuelan oil workers' union has accused the government of political persecution, the AFP reports, citing an interview with the official who has meanwhile left Venezuela.

"The idea is to neutralize the oil union movement by force," Ivan Freites, director of the federation of Venezuelan oil workers, told the AFP's Esteban Rojas. According to Freites and other sources, the Maduro regime is targeting union leaders in an attempt to conceal its responsibility for the crisis that is ravishing the country's vital oil industry.

Earlier this month, Maduro accused the CIA and the U.S. 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.

In November, the Venezuelan 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 blast was the result of a terrorist attack.

However, critics of the regime argue that the explosion resulted from an unsuccessful attempt to restart the refinery in response to the severe fuel shortage gripping Venezuela for months.

According to the AFP report, these arrests could be part of the crackdown on dissenters from within the oil industry, who are probably numerous after the government did not renew a collective agreement with oil workers that protected their rights and working conditions.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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