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The Venezuelan Amazon is located on the south coast of the Orinoco River. It includes 27 protected areas: 8 national parks and 19 natural monuments. An incalculable natural wealth that has not been enough to stop Chavismo‘s ambition.
The region has a low population density (20 inhabitants per km²), which represents 9% of the total. There are 24 indigenous peoples. Venezuela owns 6% of the Amazon, the largest tropical forest in the world. An extension of almost 400,000 kilometers of jungle, which was declared one of the seven wonders of the world in 2011. Right now it is being devastated by mining.
Illegal gold mining — especially in the states of Bolivar and Amazonas, where 60% of the national deposits are located — attracted large migratory movements from the interior and caused environmental damage throughout the area. In recent years, in view of the drop in oil prices, a rapid and aggressive mining policy has been implemented through agreements with various countries and companies. This generated devastating consequences for nature and the citizens living there.
Nicolás Maduro implemented several programs to exploit the region’s gold, diamond and coltan reserves. He did not care about the impact on the people and the environment. The result has been catastrophic for the ecosystem. The dark side of paradise, which organization SOS Orinoco staunchly denounces. When rumors of illegal mining in Canaima National Park, the “crown jewel” of the region, investigations began. They found a lot of fear and little data. In an authoritarian regime, it is very difficult to expose delinquent acts and behavior. One would be risking one’s life. That is the main reason for the creation of this NGO, which works with anonymous collaborators.
UNESCO confirmed that it accepts its reports if they are made by qualified technicians. As the regime hides all the information, SOS Orinoco works to discover the mining exploitation with satellite images. They found that they are not only in the “Arco Minero” (of 112,000 km²) but that they are extending southwards.
Maduro and his accomplices are enriching themselves at the expense of the Amazon and the indigenous peoples, developing a criminal and uncontrolled mining policy. This especially benefits the hierarchs of Chavismo. In particular the president and his vice-president, Delcy Rodríguez.
The most obvious effect of mining activity in the Amazon rainforest is the degradation of the ecosystem. Poisoning is occurring due to the mercury used in its exploitation. This is also illegal. It not only affects the environment, but also the people, as happened with the Pemón people, which has triggered a health crisis due to the resurgence of malaria. Venezuela went from being an example in its eradication to being the country with the most cases in Latin America. This is largely due to the pools of blood gold mines where the mosquito that transmits the disease breeds.
Within the framework of this negotiation, freedom has been lost and all rights are ignored. The dictatorship in Caracas has ceded power to mafia companies, which are in conflict with the local population for the control of their lands. In addition, the Colombian FARC guerrillas control huge areas, with the support of the Venezuelan National Guard. Unlimited greed for gold is the sole cause of this tragedy.
Eduardo Zalovich, Uruguayan-Israeli, is a history professor and journalist. He has written for several media, such as La Vanguardia, El Confidencial, Vozpopuli, Búsqueda and Correo de los Viernes. Zalovich analyzes, from the Middle East, the reality of the region and international politics. // Eduardo Zalovich, uruguayo-israelí, es profesor de Historia y periodista. Ha escrito para varios medios, como La Vanguardia, El Confidencial, Vozpopuli, Búsqueda y Correo de los Viernes. Analiza, desde el Medio Oriente, la realidad de la zona y la política internacional.