informal mining

OAS rights body presses for truth in Yanomami massacre claims

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), a body of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued a statement Sept. 5 urging Venezuelan authorities "to conduct a thorough investigation" into assertions made by representatives of the Horonami Yanomami organization that an isolated Yanomami  community in southern Amazonas state was massacred by outlaw gold-miners who came across the Brazilian border. The statement came days after Venezuela's Minister for Indigenous People Nicia Maldonado and Justice Minister Tareck el Aissami both said that teams sent to the region had found no evidence of a massacre. The IACHR called on both Venezuela and Brazil to pursue a deeper investigation, and report back their findings to the international body.

Venezuelan authorities deny Yanomami massacre

Venezuelan officials investigating a reported mass killing of Yanomami indigenous people say the have found no evidence of the attack. Minister of Indigenous Peoples Nicia Maldonado said a team travelled to the area by helicopter and failed to locate the bodies witnesses had described finding. "No evidence of any death was found," Maldonado said on state TV. "There is no evidence of murder or fire in either houses or shabonos [communal dwellings] in the communities where the alleged crime took place." Gen. José Eliecer Pinto of the National Guard told Ultimas Noticias newspaper that he had visited four indigenous communities along with other officials and that "everything is fine there." Officials expressed skepticism at claims that outlaw gold miners came across the border from Brazil to attack the settlemet from the air by helicopter.  "It would be extremely hard to do," said Gen. Rafael Zambrano, commander of the Venezuelan army unit responsible for the region.

Venezuela: Yanomami massacred by outlaw miners

Authorities in Venezuela pledge to investigate breaking reports that illegal gold miners in southern Amazonas state carried out a "massacre" of an isolated Yanomami indigenous community. Witnesses of the aftermath described finding "burnt bodies and bones" at the community of Irotatheri, Alto Orinoco municipality, near the Brazilian border in the headwaters of the Río Ocamo, an Orinoco tributary. (See iTouch Map; Venezuela political map) Blame is being placed on illegal miners, known as garimpeiros, who cross the border from Brazil to prospect for gold and have attacked indigenous peoples before.

Peru: Shining Path control outlaw gold operations?

Five soldiers were killed in an attack by presumed Shining Path guerrillas Aug. 15 on a military base in Mazangaro, Junin region, in Peru's Apurimac-Ene River Valley (VRAE). According to La Republica, the attack could be in response to the army's seizure three days prior to the assault of 800 kilos of precursor chemicals used in the production of cocaine. (InSight Crime, Aug. 16) Two days after the attack, Peru's special anti-terrorism prosecutor, Julio Galindo, asserted that the Shining Path column in the coca-growing region was financed not only by the narco traffic, but by illegal gold-mining and logging. He said the state is attempting to crack down on the guerilla column's money laundering networks, which he characterized as "very technical." He also referred to the area of guerilla operations as the VRAEM—including the Mantaro River in the acronym, a western tributary of the Apurimac-Ene, in an implicit acknowledgement that the insurgency is spreading. (Perú21, Aug. 18; El Comercio, Aug. 17)

Colombia: war, illegal mining encroach on indigenous communities

A landmine believed to have been placed by FARC guerillas exploded Aug. 15, killing an indigenous man and two workers who were repairing an power pylon that had been knocked down last week in an attack also attributed to the guerrillas in a rural area of Tumaco municipality of southwest Colombia's Nariño department. The indigenous man was a member of the Awá people who had been hired as a guide by the Central Naraño Electric company. Tumaco, a city of some 170,000, has been without electricity for five days due to attacks on pylons. (EFE, Aug. 15) One week earlier, Embera and other indigenous peoples up the Pacific coast in Chocó reported that their communities had come under aerial bombardment by army helicopters in the Alto Andágueda area. A statement from the Association of Indigenous Cabildos of Chocó (OREWA) said some 360 families, comprising about 1,500 people, were forced to flee the villages of La Palma, Masura, Unipa and Santa Isabel. No casualties were reported, but the statement said the displaced families were "constantly menaced" by forced of the national army, FARC and ELN guerillas. (OREWA, Aug. 6)

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