Commodity hunting in Venezuela: Indian uprising against China’s iron arms / Latin America News
It’s all about gold, diamonds, rare earths: A group of Chinese geologists called the “Iron Army” should cover all mineral resources of Venezuela. Deep in the south of the country natives fear the consequences and organize resistance.
They have gathered, as every Monday. Yanomami Piaroa Hiwi, Ye’kuana: All nations are represented. They wear shirts and T-shirts, sport or hiking shoes, shoulder bags and baseball caps. There is strong coffee from plastic cups while her legal adviser Luis Bello presents the agenda. Point 3: mining.
Puerto Ayacucho, a sultry border town in southwestern Venezuela, separated only by the Orinoco of Colombia. In addition to a bustling main street of the town has little to offer, but he is the capital of the state of Amazonas. Which is half the size of Germany, to a large extent covered by rainforest and is mainly inhabited by indigenous peoples, the indigenous peoples.
In the city center, in a room with colorful walls, an alliance called Coiam that unites organizations shall eleven. The air conditioner rattles, the atmosphere is lively. Counsel Bello, the only one without indigenous roots, asks a few times to rest more. The participants have much to tell each other, their communities are otherwise often connected only by radio with the outside world. But also up to them a disturbing message has penetrated.
The Venezuelan government wants to capture all the mineral resources of the country. For this it has signed with the Chinese conglomerate Citic an agreement. This should send geologists who travel all over Venezuela in five years and chart the stocks of gold, diamonds, bauxite or the rare earths used in high-tech products.
The deal has yet to be announced by the late President Hugo Chavez, to the details of the government is silent since then. there is a 371 + page plan of Citic. The aim is therefore, “the geological basis for the exploration and exploitation of minerals Venezuela to create”. In Puerto Ayacucho commodity viewfinder want a build of 27 exploration camps.
“This is a disaster for the Amazon,” says Guillermo Guevara. The gray-haired man with black reading glasses belongs to the student assistant, a former nomadic people, and is one of the leaders of the meeting. Guevara fears that the Asians are not limited effort on collecting data, but the raw materials are also exploited. “The Chinese are a power,” he says. “It is said that their government is socialist., But it is very capitalistic.”
The little blue book
Similarly, the government of Venezuela could describe. The Chavisten finance their policy of oil, its main customer is the U.S. supposed nemesis. But now expanded this model, the Venezuelans need new business partner. They already have experience with mining: In the east of the country, there are gold mines, coal and iron ore are also encouraged. The protest of the indigenous Amazonian seems like hopeless as in other countries.
But there is that little blue book that pulls Guillermo Guevara now and keeps in the air, as Chavez did in earlier speeches: the Constitution in 1999. Chavez left her with the help of the citizens work and say goodbye to them. She was the symbol of a policy that asks people for their opinion.
Guevara then signed the Constitution as one of three representatives of the indigenous peoples, which it promises more rights. Thus, the extraction of raw materials on their territory according to Article 120 is only allowed “without the cultural, social and economic integrity to harm them and at the same time depending on the prior information and consultation ‘. Guevara slams the book. “We have not been consulted,” he says. “We are not important.”
Citic is a longer presence in Venezuela. The Chinese help in oil production and build thousands of social housing. Nevertheless, the Indians fight against a phantom: the visit in Citic office in Caracas nobody is talking, promised a call back does not occur. Also the spokesman of the ministry of oil and mining has not replied to a request today.
More concrete sounds in the project documents: 777 raw viewfinder to swarm, 352 of them from China. With six helicopters from Eurocopter AS350 expected, they will fly over an area of 916 700 square kilometers and collect data with magnetometers and spectrometers. Also, soil samples will take the geologists. Is noted in the plan, even the hardness of pencils with which they will then record their results.
Massacre by the prospectors
“Is it true that Chinese people come from?” This question gets José Ángel Divassón Cilveti recently often heard. As apostolic vicar he is the highest representative of the Vatican in the Amazon, and traveling across the state. In his office, next to the Cathedral of Puerto Ayachucho he shows photos that have arisen here: Surrounded by the idyllic scenery appear ugly ponds and rivers with an unusual amount of mud on. There are traces of Garimpeiros, illegal gold miners, which poison the waters with mercury. For the indigenous people they are harbingers of what could come.
Again and again in the past for deadly attacks on Indians of prospectors. Often they met the Yanomami, one of the largest nations in South America. Last year, a massacre of 80 deaths was reported from a Yanomami community in Venezuela. The government sent a commission of inquiry into the jungle. After a few days they declared that there were no signs of violence.
A member of the search party is the Coiam Meeting: The Yanomami Shatiwe Luis, a 32-year-old with infantile facial features, left his home village at an early age to go to school in Puerto Ayacucho. The Commission, he should help as an interpreter. “We have found traces of Garimpeiros” says Shatiwe determined. But the military had prevented him to question his countrymen, and even threatened him with jail.
“We still believe that something has happened,” said Fiona Watson vonSurvival International. The NGO had early warning of the alleged murder and must qualify their statements, as there is not enough evidence found. But on a thorough investigation of the government’s view of Shatiwe and therefore no interest, because elections were imminent. “They always said, we sabotage the campaign.”
Even otherwise the experience of the indigenous Chavisten are daunting. No later than two years after the entry into force of the Constitution the boundaries of their territories should be documented and recognized. To date, that has not happened.
Therefore stand on a shelf at Coiam now many rolls of paper. Then communities have even drawn their habitats: forests and villages, hunting and fishing grounds. Some cards are designed elaborately, others reminiscent of children’s drawings. But all are provided with lines for the height and latitude. With their help, the descriptions are transmitted on a digital map. Indians to collect data with GPS devices even in the jungle. Even before the Chinese, they have begun to measure their home.
The Chinese “Iron Army”
But what they do when the geologists still come? Venezuela will then be able to close the individual wishes? After all, China has a huge appetite for raw materials, and now is Venezuela’s most important creditor. According to the plan, Citic, the Chinese geologists belong to a group called the “Iron Army”, the “fight and overcome great difficulties” can. Its former use: the occupied Tibet of China.
The Indians want a peaceful solution. But commodity viewfinder on their own territory would not tolerate, says the Yanomami leader Eliseo Silva. “We are not fools., We can defend our territory.” What this could mean, was recently in the East: There, the people of the Pemon Indians took 43 soldiers hostage.
However, the Pemon did not protest against the exploitation of raw materials, on the contrary. They defended themselves against an action by which the army wanted to fight illegal mining. Because many Pemon live from gold mining. An Internet video shows an angry family members who blame a visibly unsettled General of the People, he verschachere the area of “Chinese and Russians.”
Not all Indians were victims of the search for raw materials, Guillermo Arana says. The lively man with pleated pants belongs to the people of Piaroa that lives in rivers in the vicinity of Puerto Ayacucho and was described by anthropologists as a pronounced pacifist. “Some communities are looking for gold,” said Arana. “But only by hand and not on a large scale.” He wants a return to agriculture. Finally, Venezuela had far too much to ever leave a commodity with the oil that is now threatened with the same minerals. “We have had this experience already.”
The meeting lasts about two hours of Coiam. They discuss the plans of the Chinese, the recent statements by the government to mark their territory. Finally, Bello asks the crucial question: “Who goes to Caracas?”
The Venezuela state covers off himself
Less than a month after the meeting in Puerto Ayacucho are Arana, Shatiwe and other Indigenous in a square in the center of Caracas. Shatiwe takes off to his underpants. Then he puts on his tribal garb and begins to answer the questions of journalists.
The Indians have taken their concerns to the capital. Eighteen hours they are shuttled by bus, have auditioned for days at various organizations. But of all the Ministry of indigenous peoples, Arana told with a resigned smile, have denied an appointment. “A ministry that was created to take care of Indigenous, closes us out,” says a Ye’kuana during their press conference in the open. “How can that be?”
Arana also Shatiwe and make speeches, both are good speakers. “We are not here to ask for alms, or that you give us stuff”, Shatiwe calls into the microphones. “But, we recognize that our territory!”
When they are done, take the word of an activist. She agrees to a chorus: De que estamos hablando socialismo si la naturaleza la están degradando? What is a socialism with which they destroy nature?
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