HomeNoticiasAnálisisVenezuela Indigenous Communities at Risk From ELN Mining Incursions
ANALYSIS

Venezuela Indigenous Communities at Risk From ELN Mining Incursions

ELITES AND CRIME / 31 JUL 2020 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

Recent incursions by the ELN to set up illegal mining facilities along the Caura River in central Venezuela are being seen as a threat by local Indigenous communities.

In mid-July, opposition lawmaker Américo de Grazia wrote on Twitter that a group of 60 men belonging to Colombia's National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional -- ELN) had moved into in the municipality of Maripa in Bolívar state, allegedly to "protect" mining operations there.

Since May, Indigenous communities in Maripa have been warning that an increase in gold mining along the Caura River was worsening an irreversible "ecological and social crisis," according to Kapé Kapé, a non-governmental organization helping Indigenous communities in Venezuela. Other reports have stated that ex-FARC Mafia groups, who refused to demobilize during the 2016 peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia -- FARC), are also operating in the area.

In early May, irregular armed groups assassinated at least two, and possibly as many as 13 people, from the Yekuana Indigenous group, which had been protesting the installation of new mining rafts on the Caura River. Américo de Grazia blamed the killings on the ELN, which had allegedly been tasked with guarding the new installations.

SEE ALSO: What Is Behind Killings in Venezuela Illegal Mining Regions

This violence has accompanied a May decree by the Venezuelan government that opened up mining along the Caura, Cuchivero, Aro, Yuruari, Cuyuní and Caroní rivers. However, according to local communities, this exploitation has seen illegal groups, such as the ELN, move in to offer protection to the new mining installations.

As part of its expansion into Venezuela, the ELN has set up a presence in the country's main mining areas, including Bolívar. In October 2018, the ELN was reportedly responsible for the massacre of seven miners in Sifontes, Bolívar, near the Venezuela-Guyana border.

InSight Crime Analysis

Attempts to control mining operations along the Caura River and its surrounding areas appear to be organized jointly by the ELN and elements within the Venezuelan government.

While InSight Crime has not confirmed the ELN's role in the Yekuana killings in May, the guerrillas are known to be cooperating with state actors in illegal mining operations in other parts of Bolívar and have been implicated in several massacres related to control of mineral deposits.

The mining sector, especially gold, has become a financial lifeline for the Venezuelan government. Since 2016, President Nicolás Maduro has made a series of attempts to increase his control over this lucrative economy, especially in the Orinoco Mining Belt, which includes the Caura River.

SEE ALSO: Venezuela Relies on Gold as Other Criminal Economies Dry Up

An important part of this strategy has reportedly been to let the ELN assume control of much of these operations, driving out other armed groups and ensuring miners pay a portion of their revenue.

“The Maduro government wants to clean up Bolívar's mining areas with the help of the ELN. It knows that the best way to ensure control of that region without getting its hands dirty is through a clandestine collaboration with this guerrilla group," Américo de Grazia told InSight Crime.

And Indigenous communities are paying the price. The Yek’wana, Sanemá and Hoti Indigenous communities who live along the Caura River basin have been suffering from violence and environmental destruction brought about by mining for years.

"Indigenous peoples are caught in an economic trap from which they cannot escape. The pressure exerted by both state actors and organized criminal groups and the scarce job opportunities has led them to work in these mines and renounce their ancestral traditions," Olnar Ortiz, a Venezuelan lawyer and defender of Indigenous rights, told InSight Crime.

In a July 15 report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights explained that the expansion of illegal mining activity in the Orinoco Mining Belt "affects the enjoyment of the individual and collective rights of Indigenous people, due to the destruction of their habitat and the lack of control over their traditional territories and natural resources."

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EL SALVADOR / 24 SEP 2014

Colonel Carlos Alfredo Rivas Najarro is one of the more progressive figures in El Salvador's military, although he never voiced…

CACHIROS / 3 NOV 2015

Honduran businessman and politician, Yani Rosenthal, has allegedly turned himself over to authorities, following US indictments on money laundering charges…

HUMAN SMUGGLING / 8 SEP 2014

A new report by the Organization of American States (OAS) acknowledged the increased threats that migrants face in Mexico,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…