Yesterday evening, National Assembly deputy Americo de Grazia tweeted a series of messages announcing that a violent confrontation at the Los Candados mine in Bolivar state resulted in several fatalities, and blamed Colombian guerillas for the killings.
News from the remote site have trickled out over the last 36 hours, and media reports now indicate that at least seven people were killed in the violence. According to Reuters:
The family members said the murders took place on Sunday and that they found out on Monday because some of the people at the mine managed to escape.
According to de Grazia, the Colombian guerillas belong to the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN) [National Liberation Army], a left-wing paramilitary group that was formed in 1964. While relatives of some of the victims have blamed Colombian guerillas for the killings without naming any particular group, it is not immediately clear why de Grazia is holding the ELN responsible.
In a series of five tweets, de Grazia said that the Venezuelan army was on the scene, and that it had secured the Los Candados mine where the killings took place. De Grazia shared images of two men he claims were killed in the confrontation, as well of a man with gunshot wounds to his legs and a bag filled with what appears to be rifle ammunition.
Below, de Grazia’s tweets (Note: I’m posting screenshots of the tweets to break them up into individual messages, since Twitter formats all five into a single thread):
1/5 Unit from the FANB [National Bolivarian Armed Forces] en route to the “Los Candados” mine in Bochinche/Tumeremo/Sifontes/Bolivar state. Today Tuesday #16Oct [that’s where] the massacre happened.
2/5 These are the two miners killed by the ELN in “Los Candados”.
3/5 Authorities have taken the Los Candados mine in Bochinche after the massacre carried out by the ELN against the miners.
4/5 Munitions found in the “Los Candados” mine and the 6 wounded who survived the massacre are in the Jose Gregorio Hernandez hospital in Tumeremo.
5/5 Villagers and the victims’ relatives watch over the transport of the bodies in Tumeremo, from the “Los Candados” mine to be buried. We don’t know the exact number of dead yet.
As of the writing of this update, the authorities have recovered the bodies of seven people: five men and two women.
Four Bodies Identified
El Pitazo reported this afternoon that the identities of four of the miners killed have been confirmed. According to the website, the identified victims are:
- Abigail Contreras (25)
- Adela Zuriman (24)
- Edixon Contreras (23)
- Jean Carlos Gonzalez (24)
El Pitazo also confirms that the relatives of the deceased “insisted” that the killings were perpetrated by Colombian guerillas, although they did not name any particular group.
Killings Took Place in Area Known for Violence, Gold
The killings took place near the town of Tumeremo, a remote community in the western half of Bolivar state.
In March of 2016, a clash between rival criminal groups vying for control of gold mines in the area left 28 miners dead.
Tumeremo is located in a region of Venezuela called the Arco Minero del Orinoco [Orinoco Mining Arc], an area of the country identified by the Maduro regime in February 2016 as vital for development and exploitation. The Arco Minero spans an area larger than Cuba and Bulgaria combined.
Virtually non-existent environmental regulations and the promise of gold have turned the area into a lawless zone, where competing criminal groups fight one another for ownership over land and mines.
A transnational team of journalists created a profile of the Arco Minero outlining the region’s tumultuous history. The project was awarded the Gabriel Garcia Marques Journalism Prize.
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