By JP Carroll
Venezuelan government officials announced Sunday they’re investigating the disappearance of 28 gold miners, and members of the country’s political opposition say the Socialist government covered up their deaths.
The miners in Bolivar — a rural state known for its jungle and illegal mining — reportedly extracted a significant amount of gold last week before disappearing. The men were also allegedly involved in a fight with a gang that had local government backing, according to reports. Miners were reportedly shot to death and subsequently dismembered with chainsaws by the gang for refusing to hand over control of their “wildcat mine,” just hours after finding gold.
The gang allegedly got rid of the evidence by forcing,”the (other) miners to pick up the bodies and throw them into a truck,” according to an unidentified witness who spoke to Reuters. “They threw my son’s remains” in another mine, the source continued.
Illegal mining is a booming business in rural Venezuela, particularly near the Brazilian border. Socialist Governor Francisco Rangel of Bolivar denied allegations by National Assemblyman Americo De Grazia that the miners were killed as part of a state-sanctioned massacre — he instead accused “irresponsible politicians” of politicizing the disappearance of the miners.
The government has assigned two public prosecutors to specifically investigate the case of the miners’ presumed deaths. This, however, is not good enough for the opposition, which criticized Socialist lawmakers for not addressing statements from alleged witnesses saying the miners were shot and and dismembered.
The opposition-controlled National Assmebly — the equivalent of Congress — will publicly discuss the miners’ deaths Tuesday.