Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro said Wednesday that a large oil refinery suffered a “terrorist attack” as his government struggles to provide domestic fuel to the crisis-stricken nation.
Maduro also said two foreigners were detained prior to the alleged attack on Tuesday that toppled a large tower at the Amuay Refinery on Venezuela’s northern Caribbean coast. He did not name the two people detained or give their nationality.
Maduro said the attack was carried out with a “large and powerful” weapon without providing more details. He said it was under investigation.
This follows the arrest a month earlier of a U.S. citizen, Matthew John Heath, in the same part of the country later labelled a spy by Maduro. He's charged with terrorism, weapons trafficking and conspiracy.
“This is a plot against our lives, against our livelihood and against our public services,” Maduro said in a nationwide address, blaming his foe the United States and political opponents in Venezuela that wish to remove him from power.
Venezuela was once a oil-rich nation, but its broken refineries fail to produce enough fuel for drivers to fuel up their cars. Venezuela in recently months has begun importing gasoline from Iran, another nation highly-sanctioned by the U.S.
Heath was arrested along with National Guard Sergeant Major Darwin Urdaneta, Marcos Garcés and Daeven Rodríguez, driver of the vehicle. The three Venezuelans were charged with treason, terrorism, arms trafficking and conspiracy.
Maduro's Attorney General Tarek William Saab has said investigators seized from the vehicle a grenade launcher, a submachine gun, suspected plastic explosive material and bundles of dollars.
Wednesday's announcement of the attack on the Amuay refinery comes in the midst of a difficult situation facing the oil industry, burdened by falling production, financial problems and lack of investment.