Illegal gold mining operations and armed groups and their obscure economic interests, in cahoots with the Nicolás Maduro regime, are contributing to the massive destruction of Venezuela’s nature reserves, Venezuelan human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) FundaRedes says in a recent study.
The study exposes the deterioration of 44 national parks, 36 natural monuments, and 76 recreational parks throughout the country, which are of vital importance for the sustainable development of the nation and humanity.
The damages wrought by illegal mining operations, the presence of criminal groups in parks and natural monuments that make up the Orinoco Mining Arc, the indiscriminate logging in forest reserves to plant coca and marijuana, the construction of clandestine airstrips for narcotrafficking, and the contamination of water tributaries violate environmental rights and therefore the right to life, FundaRedes contends.
The NGO also highlights that these destructive practices are carried out in the face of the “anarchy and the policies maintained by the Venezuelan regime to evade its obligations” and in most cases with its consent, normalizing ecological crimes and causing serious and extensive damage to habitats.
“The dictatorship set up a master plan to establish a system of loot in the country based on the regime’s total control,” Fernando Fernández, researcher with the Organized Crime Observatory of Venezuelan NGO Paz Activa, told Diálogo on March 18. “So, the environment’s main predator is the regime, extracting without control or administrative, civil, environmental, and criminal limits.”
“When the mining arc was created, it created the mining culture at its worst. The autocracy allows forests to be cleared, soils destroyed, and the indiscriminate use of mercury to extract gold, which ravages the ecosystems,” Fernández said. “This is extremely serious. There are 400,000 square kilometers affected by the mining arc and illegal mining operations.”
This is a scenario that affects the south of Venezuela in states such as Bolívar and Amazonas, where mercury, which criminal organizations use in their illegal mining operations, produces severe environmental problems, the Venezuelan initiative Proyecto Educación, Producción y Ambiente (Education, Production and Environment Project) indicates.
In this region of the country, transnational criminal organizations have found in illegal gold mining a new source of financing, which has led to an increase in crime, violence, corruption, and human rights violation, the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies of the Spanish Ministry of Defense indicated in a report.
Colombian guerrillas, criminal syndicates, regime officials, and the Bolivarian National Guard compete for control of gold mines, which provide funds to Maduro’s embattled dictatorship, think tank International Crisis Group says in a report. The expansion of criminal groups and their cross-border operations, especially into Colombia, are a risk to stability in the region.
“There is a lot of talk about the presence of Iranians, Iraqis, and Afghans, an issue that needs to be investigated further,” Fernández said. “Faced with this scenario the region, the private sector, and all countries that aspire to the democratic side and to have better standards of living would have to worry about these alliances, because these sinister economies are extremely violent, they have no scruples.”
According to the FundaRedes report, for some time now, the Venezuelan regime has ceased to be a guarantor for the conservation and preservation of protected areas in Venezuela, to become “an economic model and a concrete policy, in which nature is subject to plundering and indiscriminate exploitation for foreign currency.”
As such, FundaRedes says, it’s important to repeal any measure that goes against Venezuelans’ environmental rights, and to investigate and sanction actions aimed at using the country’s natural wealth for private benefit, committed by officials or individuals. “The damages caused to the natural reserves are irreversible.”
Countries all over the world must “understand what is happening here in Venezuela so that it does not happen there in their territories,” Fernández concluded. “These are warning signs for the states to learn from this experience and prevent it from happening over there, in their nations.”