Venezuela: PDVSA battles second oil refinery fire in less than a month

PDVSA battles another oil refinery fire; Colombia’s most wanted drug lord gets capture, and Venezuelan opposition candidate meets with President Santos

PDVSA battles another refinery complex fire

A lightning bolt struck two naphtha storage tanks at El Palito oil refinery on Wednesday 19 September, starting a blaze that took three days to extinguish. Fortunately, no casualties were reported, in what became the second fire at a Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) industrial facility in less than a month.

At a press conference held on Friday 21 September, the PDVSA’s vice-president of refinement, Asdrúbal Chávez, denied reports that the complex’s lighting rod system was faulty. ‘Sometimes the lightning charge density is so high that it trumps our protection and strikes the tanks,’ said Chávez. He also informed that, despite the event, there was no need for an unscheduled stop at El Palito, which has a production capacity of 146,000 barrel-per-day.

The oil industry executive thanked the 200 firemen who work day and night at the refinery, as well as the members of the National Guard and Civil Protection Agency who provided logistical support to the operation.

This is the second incident to occur to the Venezuelan oil industry in less than a month. On 25 August, a gas leak explosion took the lives of more than 40 people at the Amuay oil refinery, located in neighbouring Falcon state.

Colombia’s most wanted drug lord is capture in San Cristobal

Venezuelan authorities announced on Tuesday 18 September they had capture Daniel ‘El Loco’ Barrera, Colombia’s most sought after drug lord in San Cristobal, a city located close to the country’ western border.

The operation, conducted jointly with Colombian, American and British intelligence, lasted 45 days and enticed the monitoring of 69 public phone booths, through which the drug kingpin conducted his business.

‘El Loco’ Barrera has been an active member of Latin America’s drug trafficking rings for the past 20 years. His connections with the Colombian guerrilla and paramilitary forces allowed him to control of most of the cocaine routes parting from the Colombia’s plains to Venezuela and Brazil. He is also suspected of being the main cocaine supplier for Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, one of the biggest criminal organizations in the Americas.

In order to avoid identification, Barrera burned his fingertips with acid and underwent through several surgical procedures that drastically changed his appearance.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Nicolás Maduro, issued a brief statement on Wednesday 19 September, which stated the arrest was proof of his government “indomitable will” in the fight against drug trafficking.

Opposition presidential candidate meets with President Juan Manuel Santos

In order to ‘prepare the diplomatic ground’ for ‘a new era in bilateral relationships’, Venezuelan opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles traveled to Bogota on Wednesday 19 September to meet with Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos.

The politicians devoted the half an hour meeting to the discussion of commercial and security issues between the neighbouring nations.

Later that day, Santos published a statement in which he highlighted his country’s neutral stance towards the Venezuelan elections and wished that both nations, disregarding electoral outcomes, kept working together to achieve common goals.

On his part, Capriles thanked the Colombian president for accepting to meet him, and bowed to work for the betterment of this bilateral relation.