Caracas, Venezuela, September 27, 2006—Responding to the shooting deaths of six miners in Venezuela’s Bolivar state last Friday, President Chavez warned that the case would not go unpunished. Eight National Guard soldiers are being held as suspects in the case.
“Official, soldier, policeman, whoever – on those who abuse the arms of the republic the entire weight of the law will come down,” said Chavez yesterday.
The incident occurred in the mining zone of La Paragua, in Bolivar state, which is in Venezuela’s southeast. The miners were apparently involved in illegal mining activity.
Chavez went on to say, “Whoever knows our government, knows that we confront these situations. The times have ended here where there was a president that let himself be fooled or that participated in the misleading [of the public] intentionally because it had to do with the military of the DISIP [Venezuela’s national police].”
Two of the six dead were from Venezuela’s indigenous tribes, two were Brazilian, and two were not identified. At first, the newspaper El Nacional said twelve miners were killed, a report that Justice and Interior Minister Jesse Chacón denied.
Chacón, in a press conference, confirmed that the miners were involved in illegal mining, “but this does not justify any excesses on the part of military officials,” said Chacon.
Chacón went on to say, “Absolutely nothing will be hidden and if it is shown that there was an excess of force … the persons involved will be sanctioned with the fill rigor of the law.”
Venezuela’s National Assembly voted yesterday to create a special Human Rights sub-commission that would investigate the incident.
Opposition leaders, such as the former governor of Bolivar state and former presidential candidate Andrés Velasquez, argued that the incident was typical for the “militaristic government Chavez promotes.”
“Here there is impunity – acts are being committed with a green light that the government has given to the military,” added Velasquez.
Venezuela ’s Ministry of the Environment, with the help of the National Guard, has been trying to stamp out illegal mining activity in the Venezuelan states of Bolivar and Amazonas for the past two years.