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Venezuela begins cleanup after oil slick hits coast -environment ministry

Venezuelan authorities have begun a cleanup effort after an oil slick washed up over the weekend on the coast of western Falcon state, known for pristine beaches and nature preserves, the environment ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Aug 5 (Reuters) - Venezuelan authorities have begun a cleanup effort after an oil slick washed up over the weekend on the coast of western Falcon state, known for pristine beaches and nature preserves, the environment ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Officials had not previously commented on the event, and the ministry said it was still investigating the cause of the spill. An opposition lawmaker and a source at state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela [PDVSA.UL] had previously said the slick likely resulted from a spill of the contents of a vessel's fuel tank.

"We have acted immediately in the face of this contingency, because to protect nature is to defend the fatherland," the ministry, known formally as the Ecosocialism Ministry, wrote in a statement posted on its Instagram account.

The ministry added that it had set up barriers to contain the oil but did not provide an estimate of how much oil had spilled. It said the oil ministry, PDVSA, the local Falcon state government, national park officials, and the Sebin intelligence service were participating in the cleanup and investigation. (Reporting by Mircely Guanipa in Maracay, Venezuela Writing by Luc Cohen Editing by Jonathan Oatis) ((luc.cohen@thomsonreuters.com; +58 424 133 7696; Reuters Messaging: Twitter: @cohenluc)) Keywords: VENEZUELA OIL/ENVIRONMENT

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