This Friday, the Special Commission of the National Assembly to investigate the illegal extraction of coal in Mara municipality, Zulia State, appointed by President (E) Juan Guaidó, visited the affected populations who reject the extraction of minerals by the Russian company Voltctok, in charge of the exploitation near Socuy River, which threatens water reserves and could damage the ecosystem of the region.
According to documented information, the Russian mining company Voltctok is associated with Caminpeg, a military mining company that exploits and devastates the mining arc. The mining industry tried to start an exploration phase for the extraction of coal in the aforementioned area and the surrounding communities paralyzed the action with protests. It became known that this Russian company intends to create a new mine called Socuy on the periphery of the river.
The mining action puts the water supply of approximately 2.6 million people at risk. The Tulé and Manuelote reservoirs are the main reserves that feed the municipalities of Maracaibo, San Francisco, Mara and Jesús Enrique Lossada, and also feed the El Tablazo industrial complex. Both are part of the Guasare hydrographic basin, which includes the Guasare, Socuy, Maché and Cachirí rivers, the last three of which feed the Tulé and Manuelote reservoirs.
The parliamentary inspection was attended by Deputy Virgilio Ferrer, president of the Commission; María Gabriela Hernández, president of the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change; Tobías Bolívar, vice-president of the Committee on Energy and Petroleum; and by the parliamentary block of Zulia State the deputies: José Luis Pirela and Desiree Barboza.
The first town visited was Canta Los Gallos, a community of more than 100 families who live mainly from agriculture. In the place they do not enjoy direct water and they denounce the affectation of lands product of the transport of coal by the neighboring routes. This coal is tranported without protection measures.
“You can see the coal on the road, left by the trucks that pass by. I don’t see that well, they should pick it up because they are poluting all the land. There are dead trees because of the contamination of the coal, so I read about it in the high school,” said Ender Urdaneta, a resident of Canta Los Gallos.
The young man, who is in his first year of high school at the Carlos Urdaneta High School in Carrasquero, said that he often goes to the classroom walking under the inclement sun because of the lack of transportation.
His mother, Carmen Urdaneta, said that every day in Canta Los Gallos she talks to her children and neighbors about the consequences of coal and tells them what she has seen on the Eastern Coast of the Lake, “everything is a disaster, there is sickness”, that’s why they reject this extraction on farmland.
“They shouldn’t exploit that because they screw us all up here. Without water and without being able to look after nature because not even the crops grow. We have water here because of the dam, the (tanker) trucks go up and fill up to bring water here into town… The river passes by there, from the dam comes a river, that’s why I say that if the Russians come here we all get screwed here because even that river disappears,” he stressed.
Then he continued the tour on a sand road that according to the residents was built by the Russian company and the dictatorship in the region. Along the road the deputies of the National Assembly observed abandoned poultry farms, the area was one of the country’s main chicken producers and agriculture.
In California, an indigenous Guajira township located half an hour from Canto de Los Gallos, the Special Commission of the National Assembly was received and an assembly was held with representatives of the community. We visited an area located in the center of the township whose land was flattened by the Russian company Voltctok to build a school offered to the community. Only the land clearing was observed.
“They came here and offered us a school and we did not refuse, they want to dig coal but we need our children to study. We know that coal damages everything, but here we are surviving so that we can raise our children,” said one of the California spokespersons at the assembly, Jose Gonzalez.
The people took the deputies of the National Assembly to the school they themselves built, which is a small open space with a thatched roof. The classroom has 120 elementary students who watch classes together.
“My eldest son is 15 and in second grade. He can write but can’t read well. There are no teachers because there is no transportation. There is a school in Manuelote but the children had to be carried by donkey and they suffer a lot. That’s why we took that benefit that the Russians offered. Here the children are suffering. To find the water we spent two hours walking to the dam and two hours to return. I just came from there. We are go to buy food in Carrasquero when there is coppers (money), each bus ticket costs 50 thousand Colombian pesos”, denounced Ana Tenso who asks that the rights of her son Luis Palmar and the other children of the place be respected.
The parliamentarians continued their journey along the dirt road flattened by the Russian company Voltctok and stopped in an area where the river was diverted, with washed away areas that do not allow the waters to run.
“This tour of towns such as Canta Los Gallos, California and La Mirella, we saw the damage that the Russian company Voltctok has produced to the Venezuelan State. We corroborate the complaints and it is serious what these predators are doing in our State Zulia,” said Deputy Virgilio Ferrer, president of the Special Commission.
Congresswoman María Gabriela Hernández, president of the Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change Commission, denounced that the way they inspected was opened in December 2019 to let in the Russian company Voltctok. “They entered under the custody of Venezuelan military to exploit coal in the Mara municipality. In an area that is next to the water reservoirs of all of Maracaibo. More than 2.6 million people are fed from the Manuelote reservoir here. With their explosions, their trucks and their devastation they could finish up Manuelote and all the surrounding communities, turning the area into a desert.
Desiree Barboza, from the parliamentary block of Zulia, said that “the important thing about this visit to Mara was to gather the testimonies of the people, where they say that they have refused to be exploited. They are aware of the damage that coal extraction does to life.”
“We want to warn that we Zulians are uniting around preventing a new episode similar to the Mining Arc from happening in our State of Zulia and in La Guajira: predatory mining that then persecutes the indigenous communities to subdue them and plunder them, causing patrimonial damage to the Republic,” said Deputy José Luis Pirela of the Zulia Parliamentary Bloc.
To close the day, deputy Tobías Bolívar, vice-president of the Energy and Petroleum Commission, stressed the need for a thorough follow-up of the case and all the complaints related to the mining issue at national level.
“We came to work together with the Gujira and Guayu indigenous communities here in their land, who face exploitation by a Russian company, they have taken the lead and expelled them in the first phase. We have come as the National Assembly to settle this action that the community has carried out and to help them in a definitive way from the Venezuelan Legislative Power. We do not want another mining arch, we do not want more creation of poverty, we do not want these instruments to continue being used as public policy,” he added.
The parliamentarians pointed out that the task of the National Assembly is to avoid an extractive and mining activity contrary to the pace at which the world is advancing, which is nothing more than protecting the environment and mitigating global warming. The deputies will present a report on the case to President Juan Guaidó.