Venezuela: Political Polarization Trumps Amuay Oil Refinery Tragedy

[All links lead to Spanish language pages, except when otherwise noted.]

Following the Saturday, August 25 explosion [en] of the Amuay oil refinery in the state of Falcón, the political climate in Venezuela became even more tense, which was clearly evident on the web. Citizens that support and oppose Chávez, as well as those pleading not to turn the fatal accident into a battlefield, have pushed the tragedy aside in order to talk politics and place blame.

The tragedy inside the oil refinery has left at least 48 dead [en] and has been classified as the biggest refinery explosion in the world.

Evelio Román (@sentenciador2) asserts that opposition groups in the country are responsible for the explosion:

@sentenciador2: Asciende a 39 víctimas fatales por incendio en la Refinería Amuay causado por saboteadores criminales escuacas

@sentenciador2: Upwards of 39 fatal victims in the Amuay refinery fire caused by cowardly criminal saboteurs

Esteban Trapiello (@TrapieLLo) asserted that this had been planned ahead of time and is reflected in a video game:

@TrapieLLo En este VideoJuego: MERCENARIOS2: … ¡Explota Amuay! ¡Que casualidad! ¡¡¡(Y vean la fecha de la nota de prensa)!!!

@TrapieLLo In this VideoGame: MERCENARIES2: … Amuay explodes! What a coincidence! (And look at the date of the press release)!!!
Foto tomada por el fotógrafo Gil Montaño (@gilmfoto), usada con permiso

Photo taken by photographer Gil Montaño (@gilmfoto), used with permission

César Rebolledo (@cesarurr) wrote on Twitter that this event will take its toll on October 7, in the next presidential elections:

@cesaurr: @rhm1947 si sta gnte sta llamando a pasar factura el 7 d oct,nsotros ahora mas q nunca tnems q psar facturÁ con la mas contundente victoria [sic]

@cesaurr: @rhm1947 if these people are calling for a price to be paid on Oct 7, we will pay it, now more than ever, with a most overwhelming victory

Meanwhile, the political scientist Nicmer Evans presented an analysis in his blog where he states that the Venezuelan opposition is seeking to sabotage the Bolivarian revolution, and that a few careless mistakes inside of the revolution are facilitating the process. He also demands that those responsible be found.

No es sólo que la oposición anda provocando o buscando situaciones extremas para lograr acabar con la revolución bolivariana, es también que las torpezas, descuidos o negligencias a lo interno de la revolución bolivariana pueden estar facilitando el camino para que la oposición se acerque a su objetivo.

It's not just that the opposition keeps provoking or seeking extreme situations to end the Bolivarian revolution, it's also that blunders, mistakes, and negligence inside the Bolivarian revolution can be paving the way for the opposition to achieve its objective.

On the issue of establishing blame, some citizens are waiting for the results of the investigation and also requesting that the accident not be politicized. Such is the opinion of Oliver Reina (@oliv22), who published on his Twitter account:

@oliv22: Si lo de Amuay fue accidente o atentado lo dirán las investigaciones, pero debe cesar el irrespeto al buscar crédito político de la tragedia.

@oliv22: The investigations will tell if what happened at Amuay was an accident or intentional, but disrespecting the tragedy by seeking political credit must stop.
Foto tomada por el fotógrafo Gil Montaño (@gilmfoto), usada con permiso

Photo taken by photographer Gil Montaño (@gilmfoto), used with permission

Others, like Javier Belisario (@javierbelisario), do not approve of how the government acted during the events in the refinery.  Javier criticises those who have a different view on the performance of the authorities:

@javierbelisario: Da ASCO ver los tweets de algunos dando “gracias a Dios que tengamos un gobierno tan eficiente” refiriéndose a la tragedia en #Amuay

@javierbelisario: It's DISGUSTING to see the tweets of some giving “thanks to God that we have a government so efficient” referring to the tragedy at #Amuay

There was also criticism within social networks of the economic support that Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) gives Venezuelan Formula 1 racecar driver Pastor Maldonado. The controversy started when several newspapers published the Report and Accounts for 2011 of the state-run company. Within, PDVSA itself states that it could not carry out maintenance because of the lack of materials.

Broderick Zerpa (@Beisbologo) wrote on his Twitter account:

@Beisbologo: La refinería explota por falta de manteniemiento, pero PDVSA tiene 60 millones de Dólares para romper carros en Los Proceres #GoodChoice

@Beisbologo: The refinery explodes due to the lack of maintenance, but PDVSA spends 60 million dollars to crash cars at Los Proceres [Venezuelan racetrack] #GoodChoice
Foto tomada por el fotógrafo Gil Montaño (@gilmfoto), usada con permiso

Photo taken by photographer Gil Montaño (@gilmfoto), used with permission

When President Chávez made a public appearance after the tragedy, the internet response became even more tense. The president on two occasions said that “the show must go on”, after which Naky Soto responded with a post on her blog that  “Amuay is not a show that must go on”:

Sólo le advierto que nadie resucitará por la victoria de la patria, que usar a los fallecidos como estrategia de campaña no funcionó; que a pesar de postergar su aparición 38 horas mientras le construían una estrategia idónea, no pudo capitalizar el evento y todo porque ya está desacostumbrado al debate.

Just be warned that nobody will come through with a victory for the homeland, that using the deceased as a campaign strategy will not work; that in spite of postponing his appearance for 38 hours while a suitable strategy was constructed, he could not capitalize on the event and all because he's now unaccustomed to debate.

Comments were also seen from users that requested unity and rejected the politicization of the tragedy. Rafael Sin Mordaza (@rafavalbuena) requested on his Twitter account that the political propaganda decrease:

@rafavalbuena: Como habitante de Paraguana pido a PDVSA: menos afiches, puntos rojos y politiqueria, mas prevencion, capacitacion y mantenimiento #Amuay

@rafavalbuena: As a resident of Paraguaná [peninsula which contains the refinery], I beg of PDVSA: fewer posters, red items, and politicking, more prevention, training, and maintenance #Amuay

In addition, some offered ways to help out those affected by the explosion, and the journalist Floralicia Anzola (@floralicianzola) explained how to help through social networks.

@floralicianzola: Amuay: ayudar desde las redes sociales  through @0800flor#Amuay Aquí #centrosdeacopio

@floralicianzola: Amuay: help through social networks  vía @0800flor #Amuay Here #centrosdeacopio

Others lamented the political times in which the country lives, and the political campaign that makes the polarization more evident, comparing it to the behaviour of Venezuelans during the tragedy in the state of Vargas [en] in 1999 when landslides and floods left thousands dead. Nitzia Álvarez (@nitzialvarez) said:

@Nitzialvarez: Creo que el deslave de Vargas nos encontró menos divididos. Parecíamos mejores. Amuay nos sorprendió atrincherados…

@Nitzialvarez: I think that the Vargas landslide saw us even less divided. We seemed better. Amuay happens and we find ourselves entrenched…
The photos used in this post are from the photographer Gil Montaño (@gilmfoto). More photos from Montaño can be seen in the photo essay “Desolation at the Amuay refinery

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