Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Friday that a “US spy” was captured while spying on the largest refining complex in the country, which is going through a severe fuel shortage crisis.
In a live broadcast on state television, Maduro said the man was arrested on Thursday in the northwest state of Falcon where he was spying on the Amuay and Cardon oil refineries.
Maduro said he was “a marine, who was serving as a marine on CIA bases in Iraq”.
“He was captured with specialised weapons, he was captured with large amounts of cash, large amounts of dollars and other items.”
Maduro did not give further details but said the detainee was giving a statement in custody.
Amuay and Cardon make up the Paraguana Refining Center, which has a nominal processing capacity of 971,000 barrels per day. Both have experienced multiple outages in recent years that the opposition blames on mismanagement and lack of maintenance.
There was no immediate comment from the US State Department or the White House.
Word of the alleged US spy came after a Venezuelan court last month sentenced two former US Green Berets to 20 years in prison for their role in a failed incursion in May.
While US President Donald Trump’s administration denied having anything to do with the blundered incursion, Washington backs Venezuelan opposition politician Juan Guaido who seeks to overthrow Maduro.
Maduro also said Venezuelan authorities had dismantled a plot on Wednesday that was aimed at blowing up a third refinery, El Palito in Carabobo state. He 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.”
Hit by US sanctions that have exacerbated acute fuel shortages, the government on Friday announced a new fuel distribution initiative and said it was planning new refining projects, without providing further details.
The petroleum industry was the cornerstone of Venezuela’s economy a century ago, but production has fallen to a fraction of the 3.2 million barrels per day produced just over a decade ago.