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An environmentalist holds a sign that reads in Portuguese "Nature at Risk: Against the Abrolhos Threatening Oil Auction" during a protest over the opening of the area near the Abrolhos National Park for oil exploration, as Brazil's environment minister, Ricardo Salles, speaks to the Environment Committee of the House of Representatives, in Brasilia Wednesday. | AP
World Brazil minister points finger at Venezuela over oil spills along coastline

RIO DE JANEIRO –  The oil that has been polluting Brazil’s northeastern beaches since early September is likely coming from Venezuela, according to a report by Brazil’s state oil company cited by the country’s environment minister.

The oil sludge has now reached 61 municipalities in nine Brazilian states, contaminating over 130 beaches, in what Brazilian officials have called an “unheard of” disaster.

The oil “very probably comes from Venezuela, as says the Petrobras study,” Brazilian environment minister Ricardo Salles told members of the lower house of Congress’ environmental commission.

Salles said the oil was transported on a foreign boat navigating close to the Brazilian coast but stressed that the cause of the spill remained unknown.

The minister said the oil had been particularly hard to track as it lay under the surface of the water and couldn’t be easily detected from planes.

Testifying in congress Tuesday, Petrobras President Roberto Castello Branco called the spills a “very worrying disaster” with no signs of receding.

Petrobras has been helping authorities in investigating the origin of the mysterious oil sludge.

As of late Monday, authorities had retrieved over 130 tons of sludge, which has killed at least seven turtles.

Environmental experts fear the oil will damage coral and marine life.

In Sergipe state, authorities declared a state of emergency and recommend swimmers as well as fishermen to stay away from the polluted beaches.

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