Oil spill smears coast in Venezuelan tourist hotspot

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — An oil spill has polluted more than 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) of coastline at the city of Lechería, one of Venezuela’s top tourist destinations, the city’s mayor said Tuesday.

Mayor Manuel Ferreira called it a “catastrophic scene.”

“The authorities in the area of oil production have not given us information, but the reality speaks for itself,” Ferreira lamented in a Twitter post. He ordered the beaches closed for at least 72 hours in the resorts of Los Canales, Lido and Cangrejo.

The government of President Nicolás Maduro and the state-owned PDVSA oil company have yet to announce what caused the spill, nor how much oil has been unleashed along the coast of the state of Anzoátegui.

The nearby refinery of Puerto La Cruz has the capacity to process 200,000 barrels of crude a day. And each day off the shores of Lechería, numerous tanker ships wait their turn to load crude and natural gas for Venezuelan and international markets.

Oil production has dropped sharply in recent years in Venezuela. Government critics blame inadequate maintenance and a lack of investment to improve the obsolete infrastructure, and say spills and failures have become more frequent as a result.

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