(Reuters) -Venezuela’s Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami said on Friday that authorities had disrupted a plan to attack Venezuela’s 146,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) El Palito refinery, and had arrested two suspects in the plot.
El Aissami alleged, without providing evidence, that the planned attack had the support of the Colombian and U.S. governments. Bogota, Washington and dozens of other countries do not recognize Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as the country’s rightful leader, arguing he rigged his 2018 re-election.
“This terrorist plan was prepared in Colombia,” El Aissami said. “It is also important to denounce that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency had knowledge of the plan and advised the terrorists involved.”
El Aissami said the alleged attackers also planned to blow up a pipeline supplying gasoline from the refinery to the Yagua fuel sorting station. El Palito halted gasoline output earlier this month.
The announcement comes as the once-prosperous OPEC nation suffers chronic gasoline shortages due to years of underinvestment and lack of maintenance at its 1.3 million bpd refining network, as well as U.S. sanctions disrupting fuel imports,
In October, President Nicolas Maduro said the country’s 645,000 bpd Amuay refinery was hit by a “terrorist attack.”
Venezuela’s opposition has in the past accused the government of making false claims of sabotage to critical infrastructure to distract from its mismanagement of public services.
Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Marguerita Choy
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