Fishermen live in stain of Venezuela’s broken oil industry

CABIMAS, Venezuela (AP) — Nobody lives as closely with the environmental fallout of Venezuela’s collapsing oil industry as the fishermen who scratch out an existence on the blackened, sticky shores of Lake Maracaibo.

The once prized source of vast wealth has turned into a polluted wasteland, with crude oozing from hundreds of rusting platforms and cracked pipelines that crisscross the briny tidal bay. Much of it coats the fishermen’s daily catch of blue crab that has to be scrubbed clean before it’s shipped to market in the United States and elsewhere.

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The sludge smears fishing boats, clogs outboard motors and stains nets. At the end of each sunbaked workday, fishermen wash oil clinging to their hands and feet with raw gasoline. They say the prickly rash in their skin is the price of survival.

“This seems like the end of the world,” said 28-year-old Lenin Viera, acknowledging the hard reality hundreds of fishermen like him face near the city of Cabimas: If they don’t work, their families don’t eat.

The world’s largest crude reserves fueled an oil boom making Venezuela — a founding member of OPEC — one of Latin America’s richest nations through the 1990s. The lake’s namesake city, Maracaibo, with more than a million people earned the nickname “Venezuela’s Saudi Arabia” for its high-end restaurants, luxurious shopping and bright lights adorning an 8.7 kilometer (5.4 mile) bridge spanning the lake.

Read more at: AP

Source SCOTT SMITH and RODRIGO ABD
Via Associated Press
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