"Pdvsa is not responsive"
Rivers in the southern area of Anzoátegui state release bubbles. Tascabaña indigenous community warns that what seems to be thermal water is in fact the threat of a methane gas bomb
Somehwere in Anzoátegui state residents wonder why they have to fill their water tanks with water tankers due to state-run oil holding Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) fault. Now that the issues of drinking water and the environmental damages caused by oil holding industry Pdvsa elsewhere in the country are in vogue; the members of indigenous communities around Mesa de Guanipa remember that a gas leak made them lose their right to receive water service through pipes.
Along the rivers of the area, bubbles are released. If it was not for technicians and spokesmen from Petróleos de Venezuela company, who have approached the place to warn that such water cannot be used for consumption; any stranger may confuse it with thermal water.
The phenomenon, anyway, is not older than 10 years. Rafael Maita, a native leader, remembers that particular smells and bubbles in the water were the first warnings that something wrong was going on in Tascabaña and other settlements in Eastern Anzoátegui.
The first charges were made in the local press in 2005; later, they were supported by non-governmental organizations such as Provea (The Venezuelan Program of Education-Action in Human Rights) and, in 2008, when complications arouse at homes and crops of the communities; their complains echoed in Caracas. Congress deputies, the Ombudsman's Office and other state agencies would acknowledge that gas is released from oil wells thought to have been closed in Anzoátegui area.
The very Attorney General Office - which these days demands proofs from the media before speaking of pollution- admitted four years ago that the waters of the zone are altered. By means of an analysis -whose details are unknown- it pointed to damages to the population.
On behalf of the Indigenous Organization Taguala, Rafael Maita and other neighbors require that such and any other studies which may reveal the situation they are going through are brought out. "People are quite afraid to denounce," he regrets. "Additionally, people in here let go the idea of having water well; they are getting used to drinking water supplied by water tankers instead."
According to the Environmental Perspectives in Venezuela that the Ministry of Environment submitted in 2010 to the United Nations Program for Environment; the aquifers of Mesa de Guanipa represent one of the four most potent underground water reservoirs in the country.
That explains why the most fatalist voices exclaim that there is a methane gas bomb in one of the most productive aquifers. This is not about putting Petróleos de Venezuela in a tight corner. It is clear that Anzoátegui and the whole country are supported by its oil production; however, Tascabaña residents need to find a solution to their problem.
Sociologist Rafael Uzcátegui, from non-governmental organization Provea, believes that besides giving responses to the affected communities; it is time to reopen the debate that environmental activists triggered in the 90's, concerning the consequences provoked by means of production based on mineral and hydrocarbon extraction.
By the same token, Rafael Maita adds from the very indigenous towns of Freites Municipality, that residents are not asking for the removal of either drilling rigs or pipes which have been installed along their houses. What he means is that the people want to know more about their environmental and sanitary conditions; as well as be granted again access easement which the oil holding company had always negotiated when occupying their lands.
"In 2004, the rights of way of Tascabaña, Bajo Hondo and Kashama communities expired, and now that we decide to protest, they put the National Guard in," he denounces. "Pdvsa does not give any responses; it tells us that lands need to be delimited but we have the title deeds of these lands since 1783."
There is no longer yucca or chili pepper or any other crops, such as plantain bordering Tascabaña River. The few local residents willing to talk about the issue, display a wide range of problems: from consequences to their farming activities to legends about heads of cattle dead as a result of the oil spills.
The raindrops that fall onto the place even turn into bubbles when getting in contact with the ground. That is -after all- a sign that in Freites Municipality something is wrong. Only a few local residents have given their opinion on the case. There is fear, some assert. "At that eastern zone, Pdvsa has the real power," explains Rafael Uzcátegui, a leader of Provea, from Caracas.
An oil spill on Tascabaña River brought the matter to light again last February. The Bolivarian National Guard restricted the access to this zone and, under such circumstances, the only neighbors who would open their doors to the press did it,preferring not to be identified by name. They are certainly concerned and want to know what is really going on in their rivers; additionally, they fear to lose the support, missions and construction projects that Pdvsa has funded them.
"Kari'ña members of the past lacked training; they had no access to Internet or high schools, but they were certainly more warlike," adds Maita on behalf of the Indigenous Organization Taguala. "We have now become politicized and therefore we do not fight for what is ours."
Translated by Adrián Valera Villani
José Vicente Rangel clearly said: "We are not conducting negotiations threatened with a gun in the head." He warned behind closed doors in the midst of the social upheaval occurred during the oil strike in 2002 and 2003. Dissenting Timoteo Zambrano answered back that no other option was available: "The thing is that otherwise, you do not negotiate."