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Fishermen live in stain of Venezuela's broken oil industry

Oil-covered fishermen carry home the truck tire inner tubes they use to float on in Lake Maracaibo in Cabimas, Venezuela, July 12, 2019. Venezuelan fishermen are the ones more at risk from persistent long-term exposure to the oil in Lake Maracaibo, compared to the consumers occasionally exposed to the oil-soaked seafood, according to Cornelis Elferink, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

CABIMAS, Venezuela — Prized oil wealth once pumped from Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo has turned the vast body of water into a polluted wasteland as boom turns to bust.

Nobody lives as closely with the environmental fallout as hundreds of crab fishermen who scratch out an existence on its perpetually oil-soaked shores.

Production in Venezuela has crashed to a fifth of its high two decades ago, leaving behind abandoned and broken equipment.

Crude oozes from hundreds of rusting platforms and cracked pipelines throughout the briny tidal bay.

Fishermen scrub oil from blue crabs before they’re shipped to the United States and elsewhere.

The fishermen wash oil from their skin with raw gasoline.

Lenin Viera says it seems like the end of the world, but if they don’t work, their families don’t eat.

Scott Smith, The Associated Press