MAC/20: Mines and Communities

The following articles offer a different perspective on recent events in Venezuela, after

Published by MAC on 2005-09-12

The following articles offer a different perspective on recent events in Venezuela, after president Chavez announced a new policy towards multinational companies. In contrast to the heated debate provoked by that particular issue, there has been virtually international media coverage of the desperate situation experienced by the country's artisanal miners, especially in Bolivar province

Artisan miners of Bolívar denounce Repression

Venezuela, Monday September 12, 2005

Four days after closing the highway connecting the capital of the state of Bolivar with the cities of the south of Venezuela, both protests and military repression have continued. Since the past Friday, over 700 uniformed troops have been sent throughout the region to prevent new protests by small miners. One large group of miners have posted themselves at the entrance of the Ciudad Dorada de Las Claritas, preventing the entrance of at least five tanks of the National Guard, whose mission would be the militarization of the community.

Protests Bolivar onHowever, not much has been achieved with respect to any solutions to the conflict, no government entity has presented itself in the region to initiate dialogues with the small-scale, or artisanal miners, who are demanding their rights to work with dignity in the mines which now are administered by Canadian mining company Crystallex. According to the ex-mayor (and current city councilperson) of the town Sifontes, Carlos Chancelor, the protests are the consequence of the abandonment, persecution and abuses which artisenal miners have suffered on the part of Crystallex: “When the concessions were given to the company, small-scale miners had already been working the mines, and the contracts specified that small and medium-scale miners would continue working in the region as long as the company hadn’t formally started it’s operations” he pointed out.

Chancelor and many other miners were arrested and charged with iniciating the violence, supposedly committed during their participation in the blocking of Highway 10 a week ago: “My arrest will not resolve the problems of the small and medium-scale miners, much less than arresting the people who will continue their the struggle for their rights against the abuses of this company,” declared the councilperson.

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