Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has claimed a “US spy” targeting the largest oil refining complex in the country, which is facing a severe fuel shortage crisis, has been captured.
Mr Maduro said the man, alleged to be a marine who served as a CIA operative in Iraq, was arrested on Thursday for spying on the Amuay and Cardon refineries in the northwest state of Falcon.
“He was captured with specialised weapons, he was captured with large amounts of cash, large amounts of dollars and other items,” Mr Maduro, an adversary of the United States, said.
Mr Maduro gave no identity but said the man was being interrogated about his activities.
The president also said Venezuelan authorities had foiled a plot on Wednesday that was aimed at blowing up a third refinery, El Palito in Carabobo state, and urged the nation’s oil workers to be on alert for more attacks.
“The gringo empire wants revenge against Venezuela,” he said.
“It wants to prevent Venezuela from producing all petroleum products, gasoline.”
Neither the US State Department nor the White House have commented on the issue.
The deep fuel scarcity in Venezuela has left drivers stuck in lines for hours and days to fill up vehicles, even in the capital of Caracas, in recent days.
Once one of the world’s largest exporters of oil, Venezuela today relies on imports from Iran.
Analysts predict the next three Iranian ships hauling fuel will not arrive for weeks.
If Mr Maduro’s claim of capturing a US citizen prove correct, the suspect would join two ex-green beret soldiers, Luke Denman and Airan Berry, already jailed in Venezuela for allegedly participating in a failed attempt to overthrow the socialist leader.
Additional reporting by agencies