Miners beaten by Venezuelan military were reportedly mining illegally in Venezuela

Some of the miners who were part of the group held and assaulted by members of the Venezuelan military on Friday are saying the incident may have occurred due to the non-payment of gold to the soldiers in exchange for them turning a blind eye to illegal mining on Venezuelan territory.

Yesterday, the Sunday Stabroek reported that a group of Guyanese miners in the vicinity of the “Bruck Up Falls” in the North West District were beaten by Venezuelan soldiers who crossed the border into Guyana’s territory on Friday afternoon.

Stabroek News was able to make contact with one of the miners, who suggested that the raid occurred over the non-payment of gold to the soldiers, as per an ongoing arrangement. The man, who requested anonymity, said he was part a group which joined those at “Bruck Up Landing” subsequent to them being held, and was also held, but not beaten.

He explained that he is part of a group of miners who operate illegally in Pol De Oro, located on the North Eastern side of Venezuela, a few miles from the Venezuela-Guyana border. The man said his group, as well as several others, are able to continue their operations there because they have an arrangement with Venezuelan military officials operating near the border where they pay in gold and the military turns a blind eye to their operations.

Members of the Venezuelan military had not been seen in about three months though, and the miner said the group received a call from a contact in Hosororo in the northwest around 17:00hrs last Wednesday evening telling him and his workmates to hide their equipment and themselves since members of the Venezuelan military were believed to be headed into the area where the illegal mining was taking place.

The contact in Hosororo had been in contact with someone at the landing, the miner said, who informed him about the presence of the Venezuelan military. It was also relayed that the military men in the area seemed not to be the ones with whom the miners usually conducted business.

The miner said his group went around to the other miners in the area warning them since his group was the only one warned owing to their having a satellite phone. Those not warned directly observed that the men were dumping and hiding their equipment, the miner said, and followed suit.

He said that after hiding their equipment and themselves on Wednesday night his group started off along a trail to get back to “Bruck Up Landing” in Guyana. The miner said that while there is a main trail to the landing they used an inner trail, some distance from the main trail, which allows those who do not want to be seen to remain hidden.

While the group in Venezuela were hiding on Wednesday night, members of the Venezuelan military allegedly crossed the frontier and assaulted miners at “Bruck Up Landing”. The soldiers are said to have ransacked the area, as they continuously demanded “oro” – Spanish for gold.

Another group is said to have turned up at the illegal mining area where they took persons there into custody before taking them to the landing. The miner said that seven soldiers were reportedly in Pol De Oro while five were at the landing. He said that as he and his group approached “Bruck Up Landing” they left the inner trail to see what was happening at the landing and were given away by barking dogs. The dogs alerted the soldiers to the presence of the travelling miners who were then relieved of their bags, taken captive and placed to lie down with those already under the watch of the soldiers. There were not, however, beaten at any point.

He said that upon hearing what was transpiring the man who usually makes the payment to the soldiers began travelling to the landing on Thursday but was turned back by Venezuelan soldiers stationed in the Amacuro River.

The man is said to have contacted another member of the Venezuelan military who the miners usually deal with. The individual reportedly made it possible for the man to get past the soldiers stationed in the River. The man is said to have arrived at “Bruk Up Landing” at around 10:00hrs Friday, at which time the payment is said to have been made.

Following the payment, the source said, those who were being held were allowed to move about the camp to bathe and do other tasks. They were reportedly told though, not to try to run away. The soldiers reportedly left the landing sometime Friday evening.

GDF Chief of Staff Brigadier Mark Phillips told Stabroek News on Saturday that police as well as GDF ranks have been sent to investigate the matter and that a report is forthcoming.

On Saturday President Donald Ramotar, during a press briefing, said he had been alerted to the situation and that it was being monitored. Last year, members of the Venezuelan military escorted a group of civilians into Eteringbang on the Cuyuni River under the pretext that they were carrying out a survey. This was the same day Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro paid a visit to Guyana.

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