Members of the Venezuelan army allegedly crossed over to Guyana on Friday afternoon and assaulted a group of illegal local miners operating by the Yarakita River, near the border between the countries.
According to Stabroek News the civilians attacked, which are part of an illicit gold mining and smuggling network, failed to pay the soldiers a periodical fee in exchange for them turning a blind eye to illegal mining on Venezuelan territory.
This is not the first time local press reports clashes between Venezuelans and Guyanese people. In 2007, Venezuelan soldiers were accused of blowing up two Guyanese gold-mining dredges on a river near the border between the two countries.
Illegal gold mining is a longstanding problem in the Amazon that increased in recent years when gold prices were soaring. Sadly, the illicit activity has become the “new cocaine” of Latin America, with several neighbouring countries, including Brazil and Colombia, known to have miners frequently crossing into Venezuela.
Nationwide, illegal mining in Venezuela is thought to produce about 12 tons a year of gold, or roughly double the amount produced by legal, regulated miners in 2013.
Foreign and local groups estimate that there are as many as 4,000 illegal miners working in Venezuela, which often clash with indigenous groups and are knocking the government’s efforts to stop deforestation.