Mining in Venezuela at the center of illegal activities of ELN groups and FARC dissidents

(To Maria Grazia Labellarte)

In the states bordering the south of Venezuela, it is chaos. Armed groups are helping to foster an unprecedented climate of violence, specifically drug trafficking, internal strife between government forces and various armed groups, and MAINLY extortion and illegal gold mining (the ELN group would control a corridor east-west crossing the main mining regions) are transforming this area into a sort of HUB of South American organized crime.

The protagonists would be the members of the Bolivarian National Guard (Bolivarian National Guard - GNB), the National Liberation Army of Colombia (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN) and the dissident factions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC).

Already last year the director of the Venezuelan non-governmental organization 'Redes' reported that the National Liberation Army (ELN), the largest guerrilla group operating in Colombia, would be engaged in the distribution of food boxes in the States of the Venezuelan border of Táchira, Apure and Zulia.
The ELN distributed food rations, provided by the Venezuelan government, to the multitude of citizens now in disarray. On that occasion it was assumed that this opportunity, taken by the rebel group on the fly, would have been an attempt by the Colombian group to consolidate its presence in Venezuela and strengthen its possible links with the administration of President Nicolás Maduro.

However, according to a report analyzed by a well-known Colombian Analysis Center, in 2019 ELN it continues to be the strongest criminal actor, operating in about 15 of the 24 Venezuelan states, the guerrillas would earn more than 50% percent of their profits from this large area . The report would also highlight the well-known participation of members of the Venezuelan army in the illegal mining sector.

These officials would establish checkpoints by asking for a percentage of profits made by illegal miners, whether in the form of gold, Colombian pesos or US dollars. "In other cases, the ELN guerrillas would have bribed soldiers to illegally extract gold, which sometimes led to intense fighting between criminal groups". FARC dissident groups would be equal in funding at least 50% of their criminal activities through illegal mining activities.

Photo: Ministerio del Poder Popular of the Despacho de la Presidencia y Seguimiento de la Gestión de Gobierno