Environmentalists: Oil spills have left Venezuela’s largest lake in ‘state of emergency’

Maracaibo, Venezuela, Jun 22 (EFE).- Venezuela’s Azul Ambientalistas foundation on Thursday warned of a “state of emergency” at Lake Maracaibo, the country’s largest, saying oil spills there are affecting the local economy and people’s health.

Activist Jose Sandoval, a member of that foundation, told Efe that pollution caused by oil spills, which are visible on the surface of the lake, “totally destroys” the bottom of that lagoon and kills all different kinds of animals.

“It’s more than evident that this is a state of emergency … all over the world this would be declared a state of emergency, (but) here they” ignore the situation, according to Sandoval, who urged the government to act quickly to remedy the problem in that oil-rich northwestern region near Venezuela’s border with Colombia.

The constant oil spills “paralyze the economy,” he added, noting that tourism operators are unable to work in the area and have had to suspend contracts due to the pollution.

The problem is nothing new, according to fisherman Emery Delgado.

He said, however, that he is now concerned because the size of the oil slick is already greater than in previous years even though the season in which spills become visible in the lake has not yet begun.

“This slick is going to be really big … it’s going to stretch to the Caribbean Sea,” said the man, who has fished on the lake for 37 years.

At the start of the month, environmental organizations warned about a kilometer-long oil slick, a layer of crude in the lake that since then has been affecting marine life in the northwestern state of Zulia.

Crude production in Venezuela, home to the largest proved oil reserves on the planet, has fallen sharply over the past five years due in part to severe sanctions imposed by the United States, which said they were justified by the government’s poor human rights record and election rigging.

Yet even as output has fallen, reports of oil spills in Lake Maracaibo and other parts of the country have risen.



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