Venezuelan officials order clean up of oil spill in Lake Maracaibo

CARACAS, Venezuela – The government is ramping up its efforts to clean oil slicks in Lake Maracaibo after it was criticized for not doing anything for about a month. Rafael Ramírez, the country's energy minister and president of state-owned oil firm Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), said 2,100 workers are tending to the spill that's about 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) long in the nation’s largest body of water. He said the oil was released because of the decaying of old pipelines on the lake’s floor. The Lake Maracaibo basin, in the country's western part, is one of the world's biggest hubs for oil production. But oil spills and heavy traffic have caused the lake to become polluted. Eliseo Fermín, the head of Zulia state's Legislative Council and who is an opponent of President Hugo Chávez, said the damage is massive. “[It could become] the biggest environmental crime in the history of South America.” Ramírez disagreed, saying the oil spill “cannot be compared with the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.” [The Associated Press (Venezuela), 26/06/2010; Dow Jones (Venezuela), 26/06/2010]

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