By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- A new massacre in Venezuela’s “Arco Minero”, which resulted in at least 8 Pemon native Venezuelans were killed, was perpetrated by the security forces of the Nicolas Maduro regime, former governor Andres Velasquez said.
“No, there is no room for doubt and we hold the Nicolas Maduro regime responsible and those in the state (of Bolivar) that are the face (of the regime) here,” Velasquez said during a live radio interview with Venezuela news site Venepress.
This is the second, major and known massacre in gold country this year, coming as it does only eight months after a series of events in late January which resulted in 22 Pemon killed.
The latest body count for the Icabaru massacre was published Tuesday morning by human-rights NGO “Provea”: eight dead, all of them local Pemon.
Six of the victims were identified by Provea as: Jose Perera; Jeremy Muñoz; Edison Soto; Luis Fernandez; Richard Rodriguez and Leslie Basanta, while two bodies are yet to be identified. Provea said local Pemon Captain (chieftain) Juan Gonzalez gave them the identifying information during a meeting near the site of the tragedy.
“The mining arc (Arco Minero) of death has generated a new massacre, this time in the middle of the heart of the Gran Sabana in the Icabaru zone, with the purpose of taking control of the zone and displacing the indigenous peoples,” Velásquez later told the page of Presidencia Venezuela, the office of National Assembly President Juan Guaido, the lawmaker who in January claimed the mantle of interim President of Venezuela.
CHOPPERS AND BLACK UNIFORMS
In a series of tweets posted later, Velasquez substantiated his allegations, writing that “there is no room for doubt, the repressive bodies of the State (helicopters, black uniforms, assault rifles and ski masks) are responsible for the massacre in the mining zone of Icabaru, Gran Sabana municipality. Maduro and Noguera Pietri, they can’t play dumb with this. They can’t remain silent.”
Velasquez was governor of Bolivar state, where the bulk of the Arco Minero is located, in the 1990s. He ran again and won in 2018, according to a study and report by LAHT and Caracas Capital, but the Maduro-controlled CNE electoral agency blatantly changed the votes and awarded the Bolivar governorship instead to Justo Noguera Pietri, a longtime Chavista general and loyalist.
"The computer printouts from the polling stations show that Governor Velasquez won," wrote LAHT head Russ Dallen at the time. "The government was so desperate to hold on to control of Bolivar state, where the ELN, FARC and all of these malandro gangs are active, that the government-controlled electoral board CNE actually changed the vote totals so that the numbers they published don't agree with their own machines, which we have the printouts from."
The mining arc comprises 12% of Venezuela’s total land mass of about 1 million square kilometers. With some of the largest gold reserves in the planet, the delicate area -- nestled between the Amazon and Venezuela’s Gran Sabana and crisscrossed by mighty rivers -- is also full of native Pemon and other indigenous people who have said they don’t want unregulated gold mining in their ancestral lands.