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KEYS | 39 killed in Venezuelan gold mines so far in 2020

From January 16 to November 15, 2020, nine armed clashes have been registered in the gold mines of El Callao, Tumeremo, El Manteco, and Angostura. Human Rights Watch and the National Assembly say armed violence is a distinguishing feature in the Mining Arc.


By Carlos Suniaga.

At least 39 people have died in clashes and armed attacks in mining areas so far this year in the border state of Bolivar, according to a tally kept by El Pitazo.

The figure is based on press reports, official reports from security forces, and complaints from residents documented between 16 January and 15 November. Among the dead are civilians who are members of local armed groups, police and military officials, and members of irregular groups allegedly from Colombia.

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The following is a chronological, detailed account of these events.

  • On January 16, residents of El Manteco reported the murder of eight people in a mining area in the town. They attributed the event to a group of alleged guerrillas tied to the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN), an organization that did not accept the 2016 Bogota peace accords.
  • April 6. An armed group ambushed and killed the commander of the Tarabay Fort in Tumeremo, Lieutenant Col. Leon Ernesto Solis, and his escort, Sergeant Gustavo Flores.
  • May 15. Officials of the Scientific and Investigation Police (Cicpc in Spanish) confronted and killed alias el Chinazo and el Puchi in the Campo Orinoco street of Tumeremo. These two men were allegedly involved in the attack on Commander Solis.
  • On May 25, a policeman and a gold merchant were shot dead in a gold processing plant in El Callao.
  • A military officer and four civilians from a local gang got killed in an armed clash in the Las Anzas mining sector of El Callao on May 26.
  • On May 27, yet another confrontation with five individuals killed, four gang members, and one military. Four members of the gang of alias Toto and Zacarias, two leaders of the armed group that controls the mines of El Callao, were assassinated when confronting mixed commissions (police and military) of security forces. An officer of the General Directorate of Military Counter-Intelligence (Dgcim), identified as Jose Rafael Blanco Molina, 29 years old, was also killed in the shooting.
  • On 23 August, another five men from the Toto and Zacarias gang died when they confronted army commissions in the El Peru zone of El Callao.
  • On 30 August, in a new shooting incident, army officers killed six men from the Toto and Zacarias gang. After the procedure, officers seized weapons of war.
  • On November 15, a shooting was reported in the area of La Cochinera, in the municipality of Angostura. Military officials killed four men of Colombian nationality who were wearing military clothing and who allegedly belonged to a guerrilla group.
  • In total, 28 civilians, seven officers (one police and six militaries), and four alleged members of an irregular Colombian group have been killed in 11 months.

Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho.

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