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CARACAS: Venezuelans resumed work on Thursday after a weeklong hiatus forced by an unprecedented nationwide blackout, but President Nicolas Maduro’s regime faced fresh problems including a “terrorist attack” on an oil facility.

Three storage tanks at the Petro San Felix heavy oil processing plant in eastern Venezuela caught fire late on Wednesday, Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo told state television. There were no reports of casualties.

Quevedo blamed Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s opposition-ruled congress and self-proclaimed interim president backed by 50 countries, accusing him of collusion with the United States.

“There was a terrorist act that we denounce at an international level,” Quevedo told the VTV network.

On Twitter, the minister said Guaido and the opposition were “intensifying terrorist incursions” against the state-owned oil company PDVSA to impact Venezuela’s vital crude exports.

“Traitors!” he wrote, adding “the US has decided to rob Venezuela of its oil resources... (and) wants blood to flow.” There was no immediate reaction from the United States, which this week ordered all its diplomats out of Venezuela.

Oil accounts for 90 percent of Venezuela’s export revenues. Production has long slid, crimped by years of underinvestment and mismanagement. Stepped-up US sanctions have further trimmed exports.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2019