Illegal mining and criminal groups: another problem in Venezuela

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While Venezuela's problems are handled from the capital, the borders hide much more serious situations

Illegal mining and criminal groups: another problem in Venezuela

According to a report by the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization that focuses on high-level analysis and advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflicts, "Gold and Grief in Venezuela's Violent South", portrays the situation on the southern border of that country, giving an account of the serious problems that occur there.

Leer en español: La minería ilegal y los grupos criminales: otro problema de Venezuela

This is how the presence of the Colombian guerrillas and the Venezuelan armed groups generate new threats to the south of Venezuela, the main one being illegal mining as a form of enrichment. Due to the economic crisis, many Venezuelans decide to work in the mines. These are controlled by the illegal groups, who in turn take charge of the communities; recruiting young people and enforcing the rules.

The main actors

The report highlights the border regions of Bolívar and Amazonas as the most vulnerable, and within them move four main actors.

There are criminal organizations called Sindicatos and Pranes. The first was operated before the crisis and through extortions obtained contracts for the construction of buildings. The second one stands out as criminal leaders who engage in drug trafficking and extortion.

On the other hand, there are the Colombian guerillas, which have found in this region perfect economic sustenance to continue living. The dissidence of FARC is located west of Bolivar and have been characterized by gaining territory protected under the mantle of the regime, given its affinity with it.

Also, the ELN took advantage of its incursion in Venezuela to make presence in at least 13 of the 24 states, "which allows them to control radio stations, influence academic programs, and have links with politicians", the report said.


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The illegal business

Due to the fact that in Bolívar and Amazonas there are several amounts of gold and metals, these four groups control large swathes of territory and use extreme violence for local communities to obey them.

However, as is usual in this type of situation, territorial disputes cause conflicts between criminal groups to be created, and in the end, they keep controlling more ground, as in the case of the ELN who controls a corridor from east to west, through the main mineral regions of southern Venezuela.

It is at this point that a new actor emerges, because according to the report "around 30% of the military are involved in the companies of the Venezuelan state, and are present at the board of directors of the mining companies", which makes that "use their political strength to enrich themselves through illegal mining. Where they profit through 'taxes' or 'vaccines'".

In this way, the members of the armed forces allow illegal mining and those who "control" the situation, rotate so that another new military arrives and thus the government has the guarantee of the fidelity of the military.

The civil population

Due to the crisis, not only economic but fuel, many Venezuelans in the region are forced to work in the mines and obey the orders of criminal gangs, because they are the ones who help pave roads or bring medicines or meals necessary for the newspaper live.

However, with the arrival of these groups, the panorama and traditions of the communities are changed, since, as mentioned before, both FARC and ELN dissidence interfere in education programs, giving teachers material to idealize the guerrillas.

In addition, it should be noted that with the arrival of these Colombian criminal and guerrilla groups, homicide rates are increasing exponentially. According to the report, based on the homicide rate of 2019, that of Venezuela was the highest in the region with 81.4 per 100,000 inhabitants.

What role do the Colombian guerrillas play in the crisis?

Given the Venezuelan situation, there has been much talk about a possible military intervention to end the problem of the Maduro regime. However, the presence of the ELN serves the strategic interests of the government and the armed forces, since with armed and trained guerrillas they would defend Maduro

Thanks to the regime is that both, the dissidents and the ELN, have been strengthened and that is where they can guarantee their illegal activities, where they can establish strong foundations because that is where they have money, resources, labor, weapons and safe haven.

In this way, to counteract the strengthening of the ELN, the report proposes not to close the doors to an eventual dialogue with this group outside the law and not to carry out a military intervention because these groups are willing to go to war to continue with the illegal mining, which if not controlled could expand through the neighboring territories of Brazil and Guyana.


LatinAmerican Post | Laura Viviana Guevara Muñoz

Translated from "La minería ilegal y los grupos criminales: otro problema de Venezuela"