Venezuela's Maduro claims refinery blast was 'terrorist' attack

Caracas (AFP) –


Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro claimed on Wednesday the country's largest oil refinery had come under armed "terrorist" attack and blamed opposition leader Juan Guaido.

His claims came a day after opposition leaders revealed there had been an explosion at the refinery in northwestern Falcon state, without anyone being hurt.

The Amuay refinery "was attacked by a powerful weapon, a huge weapon," Maduro told international media in the capital Caracas.

"They wanted to provoke an explosion (and) took down a tower that had thicker steel than a tank."

Maduro said authorities were investigating what type of weapon was used but blamed "Juan Guaido's terrorist groups."

Maduro often accuses Guaido of being behind supposed terror attacks.

Almost two years ago Guaido launched a challenge to Maduro's authority by declaring himself acting president and gaining the support of around 60 countries.

"Maduro, as is his habit, is lying. What destroyed Amuay and the refineries was corruption and plunder," Guaido wrote on Twitter.

Amuay is part of a giant refinery on Venezuela's Paraguana peninsula.

It's one of the largest in the world with a capacity to produce 955,000 barrels of crude a day, although it is a long way from reaching that due to the collapse of Venezuela's oil industry.

Whereas Venezuela produced 3.2 million barrels a day a dozen years ago, it is down to just 400,000, according to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The refinery is only functioning at 12 percent capacity, according to AFP figures based on information from industry sources.

Maduro has even had to seek help from ally Iran, which has sent fuel and other products to reactivate the refinery.

Opposition legislator Luis Stefanelli claimed on Tuesday the explosion was caused by a possible "hydrofluoric acid leak" and blamed the state oil company PDVSA for "an irresponsible attitude."

Experts and opposition leaders claim the drop in oil production is due to a lack of investment and maintenance of infrastructure due to negligence and multi-million dollar corruption by the PDVSA leadership.

Maduro blames it on US sanctions aimed at forcing him from power.

The socialist leader is no stranger to making claims that the country has come under attack -- all denied by the opposition -- notably after the massive blackouts throughout 2019.