Venezuelan military forces have begun the search for 28 miners, who are believed to have been murdered while working at an illegal gold mine in the state of Bolívar.
The region, which lies along the Brazilian border, is notorious for its illegal mining activities, leaving workers open to attacks from vigilante armed groups. The country’s National Guard began the ascent to the isolated Tumeremo zone, where the workers were last seen towards the end of last week.
Three helicopters were sent from Caracas to aid search efforts.
“The search has been fruitless. We haven’t found any clues which would suggest that any of the miners are dead.” State governor Francisco Rangel commented.
Yet a medical official in the José Gregorio Hernández de Tumeremo hospital tells a very different story.
“Various miners who had been shot, hit and punched arrived here, they were trying to escape the massacre.” A doctor, who refused to be named, told BBC Mundo. It is believed that some 28 miners were murdered in the Atenas gold mine on Friday.
“The bodies never reached the morgue, it would seem they were disposed of in mass graves… Witnesses have told us that they were attacked by members of the syndicate.” He added.
“In Peregrino, a settlement which is close by, you could hear the shots. The mine is very close to the town, but access is difficult and it can take two hours to reach it from Tumeremo. Violence has increased so much during the past few years that many have abandoned their land,” added the uncle of one of the disappeared, 23-year-old Fernando Guevara.
A day’s work in a Bolívar state mine can see workers earn the same amount as a professional would earn during a month in Caracas. The state is believed to be home to the second largest gold reserves in the world.