This Wednesday, the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights held the meeting “South of the Orinoco: Gold of Blood and Destruction,” with the participation of the SOS Orinoco Organization; Mercedes De Freitas, executive director of Transparencia Venezuela; and the Presidential Commissioner for the Mining Arch, Américo de Grazia.
The forum was moderated by Miguel Pizarro, Commissioner for the United Nations, who gave his views on this issue: “South of Orinoco is a disintegrating zone that is controlled by irregular groups, internal mafias, pranatos (armed gangs) and the National Armed Forces. It is a zone where violence is imposed.
In recent years, South of the Orinoco has been the protagonist of illicit activities, corruption, drug trafficking, illegal mining and massacres against indigenous peoples due to the great wealth of precious stones (and minerals) found there. About this, members of the organization SOS Orinoco declared: “The great contagion of former eradicated diseases, deaths from malnutrition, food insecurity and the advance of diseases like HIV in the indigenous communities has to do in great measure with the mining conflict and the unprecedented devastation that we observe today with great concern in the Venezuelan Amazon”.
“The crisis in the southern Orinoco is a facet of the Venezuelan crisis that has so far been largely invisible, but it is one that impacts the entire region. The regime is giving a clear signal that indiscriminate mining, which clear cuts forests, poisons with mercury and sediments the rivers, has priority over the preservation of the extremely delicate environment of southern Venezuela and the social structure of the indigenous peoples,” said representatives of the SOS Orinoco Organization.
The executive director of the NGO Transparencia Venezuela, Mercedes De Freitas, pointed out the control of criminal groups that obtain financing through regime officials. De Freitas said: “What is happening today in the south of the country, illegal trade and mining, the destruction of the environment, of the people who live here and of the future of these areas is allowed under the complicit gaze of those who should protect it and safeguard the Constitution. These activities are not only carried out by guerrillas and irregular groups, but also by the state security forces who control and commercialize hundreds of mines.”
“From 2016 to the present there have been approximately 40 massacres in the mining areas of the country due to conflicts between criminal groups and security forces. These massacres have terrorized Venezuelan citizens since not only deaths but also dismemberments and torture occur. The victims are mostly innocent people, miners or members of the indigenous peoples who live in these places,” said the director of Transparencia Venezuela.
According to figures from the NGO Transparencia Venezuela, only between 10% and 30% of the gold extracted in the country goes into the official coffers of the Central Bank of Venezuela, the rest is traded on the international black market.
Américo de Grazia, deputy to the National Assembly and Presidential Commissioner for the Mining Arc, said: “Mining activity has been practically introduced throughout the southern Orinoco region as a policy, this is not the mining arc that the regime defined in 2016. The end is the same, corruption, informal trade and the destruction of the country”.
“All this has had great consequences on public services, on electric power, on water, on the indigenous ethnic groups, on the National Parks, and it greatly affects the population living there because of the massive contamination of water. Millions of Venezuelans who live in the states where these criminal activities are practiced consume water that is highly toxic to their health,” said Commissioner Américo de Grazia.
To conclude, the Presidential Commissioner for the United Nations, Miguel Pizarro, stated: “It is very clear that mining activity kills the environment, indigenous populations, and the land. But it is also destroying important areas not only of forest reserves but also of ancestral lands. Gold not only feeds the corruption of Nicolás Maduro’s leadership, but also irregular groups, and it is a mining exploitation that has no benefit for our economy, it is only an effect is to feed the illegal economy”.
“What is happening today South of the Orinoco is happening in a country where the regime has decided to close the electoral roads, has persecuted and prosecuted political, union and indigenous leaders. It is happening in a country where next week there is a report to be made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and in which we ask for the support of the entire international community for its dissemination. And above all, it is happening in a country that has special procedures on international issues to be able to take action” concluded Deputy Pizarro.
This event organized by the Office of Commissioner Pizarro was private, aimed at diplomatic missions and government officials from different countries.