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Chavez defends oil minister following fatal refinery explosion

06 September 2012

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez defended his oil minister on September 5, saying he has a solid record leading the industry for a decade despite a recent refinery explosion that killed at least 42 people. Expressing full support for Rafael Ramirez, Chavez said that if he wins re-election in October, Ramirez will remain as head of the Oil and Mining Ministry and the state-run company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, PDVSA.

Rafael Ramirez is Oil and Mining Minister and head of the state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA
Rafael Ramirez is Oil and Mining Minister and head of the state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA

The cause of the Aug. 25 blast, which also injured more than 150 people, is under investigation.

Some experts have said that insufficient maintenance by Venezuela’s oil company is behind the regular accidents at PVDSA refineries and facilities. They note that the oil group’s revenues are used to finance social programmes started by Chavez’s government.

Ramirez says PVDSA has spent billions of dollars maintaining the country’s refineries.

When asked by a reporter if he would consider dismissing his oil minister over the matter, Chavez said at a news conference: “How can anyone suggest that I dismiss Minister Rafael Ramirez if they still haven’t completed the investigation.”

The Amuay refinery, where the blast occurred, is one of the largest in the world and is part of PDVSA’s Paraguana Refining Complex.

Chavez flew to the explosion site after the disaster and has pledged aid for families whose homes were destroyed.

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