By Glorimar Fernandez.
Citizens from El Manteco, in the Piar municipality of Bolivar state, reported at least eight persons killed in the latest confrontation in that gold mining region.
People got in touch with El Pitazo Thursday afternoon and reported that one of the sides claimed to represent Colombia’s ELN left-wing guerrilla group.
“The hoodlums from the mine showed up in the town in two trucks, they were looking for other dudes working with them, and they carried assault rifles and handguns on them, some were wearing armored vests and some were shirtless,” one of the El Manteco citizens said.
Only minutes later, the reason for the disturbance became clear, as another group of men in pickup trucks, wearing military-like uniforms showed up: this was the quarry. “They shouted to cattle ranchers not to exit their ranches, to the people in townships not to leave their shanties because they were from the ELN and they were going to clean up the mine,” the witness said.
El Manteco is close to Upata and has been experiencing armed presence over the last 10 years, particularly near gold mines.
The situation got complicated by the presence two years ago of the ELN. A group that did not accept dialogue or amnesty, ELN was chased out of Colombia after the 2016 peace accords and has found a home in Venezuela, engaging in illicit gold mining and cattle rustling.
The neighbors say that the ELN has the backing of the Venezuelan military in its struggle against other gold mining gangs.