Upper Cuyuni miners appeal for protection from Venezuelan gangs

Saying that Venezuelan “sindicato” gangs are terrorising them in the Upper Cuyuni River area, some gold and diamond miners have called on the government and military to provide protection.

A plea by “concerned miners” for immediate escort services for their boats was published in an ad in yesterday’s edition of the Stabroek News, in which they highlighted how the gangs are hampering their operations.

The miners explained that a gang has established a camp about three miles below Eteringbang on the Cuyuni River and has been stopping all boats, Guyanese and Venezuelan, transporting fuel and rations to mining camps and demanding gold and cash.

“This Sindicato Gang is heavily armed and would fire at our boats if we do not stop. They also have boats and would drive up behind us if we do not stop,” the miners stated.

According to the ad, another gang has recently set up a base at Butanamo, about twenty miles further down the Cuyuni and it is also engaging in similar attacks.

One of the affected miners, who asked not to be named, told this newspaper that the situation took a turn for the worse approximately two months ago. “It is getting real tough for us in this area. Every time we pass there, these men want their two pints meaning we have to give them 1/5 an ounce of gold,” the miner related.

The man further explained that they are forced to pay the sindicato members at every camp they have set up in other to protect the operations.

“They are very intimidating. They come after you if you drive pass them and they have high powered weapons. It is a bullying situation,” he said, while noting that the situation has gotten worse as the Brazilian miners in the area are paying for their protection.

The miner also stated that while the men operate in the vicinity of the Venezuelan soldiers and National Guard, they do not give any assistance to the miners.

The miner went on to say that the gang was initially in the vicinity of San Martin in Venezuela but they relocated further up the river. “We are calling on the government and the army to help us before the situation gets more unbearable. These people are walking over us and we are looking for help,” the miner said.

Administrative Manager of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association Avalon Jagnandan yesterday explained to this newspaper that the group’s members have brought the situation to the organisation’s attention.

“We are aware of the situation and the presence of the gang in the Cuyuni River but this is a matter of national security and the government needs to act quickly,” Jagnandan stressed.

Commander of ‘F’ Division Kevin Adonis acknowledged that the police force has received information about the presence of the gangs. Adonis explained that ranks patrolling in the area have noticed the presence of men in the area but they could not say if the men were Venezuelan soldiers or members of the sindicato gangs. He added that they are unable to conduct a thorough investigation since the men are stationed on the Venezuelan side of the river.

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