Politicians from European countries and the United States tend to focus on Brazil when they criticize deforestation and illegal actions in the Amazon, although the forest extends to eight other countries: Peru, Colombia, Venezuela , Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and France (French Guiana).
In the Chavista dictatorship, the Amazon has been the scene of environmental devastation, criminality and human rights violations, due to a project of the Nicolás Maduro regime launched in February 2016: the Arco Mineiro do Orinoco (AMO), where the extraction of gold, copper, diamonds and bauxite, among others, is being stimulated.
Ironically, the dictator claimed at the time that the objectives were, in addition to generating wealth for the weakened Venezuelan economy, to promote environmental conservation and “defeat the mafias that exploit and enslave mining communities”.
Last year, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report that pointed out that none of the goals announced by Maduro when the AMO was launched has been achieved.
“On the contrary, the AMO is widely regarded as the center of an uncontrolled and often violent experience of violence. exploration of resources, regions and communities”, pointed out the organization, which highlighted that the exploration of minerals of the AMO has been expanded to six additional rivers beyond the Orinoco and that the estimates of active miners in the region vary from 70 thousand to 500 thousand people.
In the last 037 years, about 3,800 square kilometers (about three times the area of the city of Rio de Janeiro) of the Venezuelan Amazon were deforested, which doesn’t seem like much in absolute numbers – by comparison, only last year , 4.037 square kilometers of forest were only devastated in Pará.
However, it is necessary to point out that the Venezuelan Amazon represents only 6% of the total area of the flo remains and about half of the area lost during Chavismo has been deforested in the last five years, according to information from the Financial Times.
“We have one of the richest places in the world, some fantastic natural resources, We have a whole system of protected areas that was created to protect these resources, but now we have the beginning of a wave of destruction and there is no indication that things are going to change,” Venezuelan Francisco Dallmeier, director of the Center for Conservation and Sustainability from the Smithsonian Institute for Biological Conservation. He classified what has been happening in recent years in southern Venezuela as “ecocide”.
Amputations and miners buried alive
In a recent interview carried by the Council of the Americas, Cristina Burelli, co-founder and executive director of the non-profit organization Iniciativa V5, commented on the fact that the situation of the Venezuelan Amazon is little commented on around the world.
“We don’t really hear about the Venezuelan Amazon because the country never presented itself as an Amazonian country, but as an oil country”, he justified.
“ are suffering the brunt of illegal mining. What is happening is that thousands of illegal miners – people looking for a way to survive – managed by criminal groups are being put to work. This is modern slavery”, claimed Burelli.
In July 2020, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights indicated that the AMO is a region of rampant violence, with reports of sexual exploitation of adolescents, extortion and amputation of members of miners as a form of punishment, among other crimes. Some workers were buried alive, according to the testimonies collected by the UN.
In addition, the report pointed out that children as young as nine were found working in the mining, that workers were forced to work shifts hours and going down in mining pits without any protective equipment and also cases of mercury poisoning, used to separate gold from other minerals.
Disputes between criminal groups for control of mining sites (a niche also exploited by guerrillas involved in drug trafficking) is also a source of violence: 149 people were killed in 20 conflicts between 2020 and 2020.
Like everything Chavismo gets its hands on, the forgotten Amazon is turning into a tragedy.