Venezuelan military destroys illegal mining operation in the Amazon

Venezuelan military destroys illegal mining camp in the Yapacana national park in April 2023. (Image by the Operational Strategic Commander of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, Twitter.)

The Venezuelan military destroyed what they call a “logistic system” of illegal mining, which was operated by criminal groups in the Yapacana national park, located in the southern Amazonas state, near the border with Brazil and Colombia.

In a series of social media posts, the Operational Strategic Commander of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, Domingo Hernández Lárez, said that the unregulated operation was found in Yapacana’s Caño Grande sector by agents who are permanently deployed in the Amazonas state with the goal of guaranteeing that environmental conservation and protection measures are observed.

“No human activity is allowed in national parks,” Hernández Lárez said. “No human group has the right to destroy forest reserves, parks or national monuments protected by the State. All citizens must adhere to the Fifth Historical Objective of the Homeland.”

The Objective is a six-year program aimed at promoting conservation measures that balance out human activities and the safeguarding of nature. 

Among the items destroyed by the military during this week’s incursion were suction pumps, engines, high-pressure hoses and fuel, all used to illegally extract gold from the national park.

Despite the Commander’s words, the Venezuelan military has been repeatedly accused by NGOs and intergovernmental organizations of allowing criminal groups to exploit and smuggle the country’s gold resources. 

Late last year, an independent international fact-finding Mission set up by the UN’s Human Rights Council issued a report stating that a significant part of the destruction of Venezuela’s national parks and protected areas in the southern states is caused by concessions granted by the Nicolás Maduro administration to the National Liberation Army (ELN), a Colombian guerrilla group. The group has divided the region into several chunks ruled by so-called unions that, in addition to carrying out illegal mining and logging, trafficking drugs, arms, fuel, medicine and food, create modern slavery situations and attack Indigenous communities.  

“Venezuelan military units allow and sometimes facilitate, ELN activities to drive out rival criminal armed groups,” the dossier reads. “Additionally, the ELN relies on a network of smugglers and mules who pay bribes to cross GNB (Venezuelan army) lines and armed group checkpoints to bring gold to the Colombian border.”

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