By Carlos Suniaga.
The Pemon ethnic group, the original inhabitants of Bolivar state, place of the most gold mines in Venezuela, now denounce the presence of armed groups in their ancestral lands after years of harassment by the Nicolas Maduro regime.
The Pemon have been resisting and protesting against the regime for years. The protest intensified since Maduro launched the illicit gold-project Mining Arc in 2016. That same year, 28 miners and Pemon died in a massacre in the gold country.
Clashes and protests continued until 2019 when seven Pemon were killed by the regime military and 57 injured in a series of violent facing. As a result, 13 Pemon were arrested and sent to Caracas, accused of taking part in a failed coup against Maduro. Their leader, Salvador Franco, died in custody, leaving his 12 Pemon brothers still in jail. At least 1,000 Pemon have had to relocate to neighboring Brazil.
The new armed group hails from El Dorado and gets accompanied by dozens of artisanal miners. They set up camp on Tuesday, February 2, in the indigenous community located in the Sifontes municipality in southern Bolivar, El Pitazo learned from Pemon sources in the area.
And more violence could follow, the sources stated. The informant explained that members from the band and miners arrived in boats along the Cuyuni and Chicanan rivers and have settled to carry out illegal mining. He warned that they are armed, and the more than 300 indigenous people living in the territory fear for their lives.
“The community itself decided two years ago to remove the miners. And now boats have arrived, and we think that a massacre may occur because they are threatening them with force, with the support of the armed group,” he said.
The source said that the military and civil authorities of Bolivar state are aware of the situation.
“We warned the government because they have to guarantee the security of our community. But if we do not get an answer, we will have to continue resisting as we have resisted for more than 500 years in our lands,” maintained. The spokesman added that if necessary, the people of the 22 communities of the Cuyuni – Sifontes sector are willing to mobilize to San Luis de Morichal to support their countrymen.
“If they (the armed group) build a bridge to talk, we can dialogue. But the threats they are making since this afternoon and part of the night make it clear that they do not want dialogue. Besides, their settling in the territory is not something we are going to negotiate,” he indicated.