As deforestation ravages Venezuela, few in the media seem to care. The humanitarian crisis has forced out nearly 6 million people and led close to 90% of Venezuelans to live in poverty. The mining arc known as the Arco Minero encompasses forest reserves, national parks, and protected river basins. Not only is Venezuela the Amazonian country with the most illegal mines, but the results of the mining have also led to the highest level of deforestation in the world. According to the SOS Orinoco, in the last 20 years, 779,600 hectares of forest have been destroyed. It is an environmental crime, yet no one is talking about it.
Gold mining has always been prominent in Venezuela, but due to the collapse of the oil industry, the Maduro regime decided to ramp up the mining industry. In 2016, Maduro designated 112,000 square miles of rainforest near the Orinoco River for gold mining. Since then, 50% of Venezuela’s national territory is being mined.
The mining has put wildlife under threat and contaminated rivers, including fisheries that flow downstream to other Caribbean nations. Rivers are also filled with mercury which directly affects the health of indigenous communities. Increased mining by the Orinoco River has even caused a malaria outbreak in mining areas. The outbreak makes up 53% of the malaria cases in South America and likewise directly affects the indigenous. Like the millions of Venezuelans that have already fled the country due to socialism, many within the indigenous community are also leaving due to the effects of mining.
Even more alarming, with the participation and permission from the Venezuelan government, China, Iran, and Russia along with the Colombian guerillas such as the ELN and the FARC have all been involved in the extraction of gold from the Arco Minero by splitting up the land. In the Bolivar and Guyana states where much of the mining occurs, people are now using gold to purchase items as a pragmatic alternative to the worthless Bolivar, the national currency in Venezuela. In the Guyana state specifically, gangs run the mines, the gold is then exported, and the gangs along with the guerillas take the greatest share of the wealth. The mining has gotten so out of control and hijacked by dangerous illegal groups that it has led to the exploitation of miners, who are essentially slaves made to endure the hazardous work conditions. This is not just an environmental disaster, it’s a criminal organization.
In 2009 at a climate summit, former socialist President Hugo Chavez blamed the sole reason for climate change on capitalism. He praised students that held signs that said, “[D]on’t change the climate, change the system.” Ironically, Venezuela did change the system from capitalist to socialist, and its deforestation rates and oil spills are among the worst in the world.
While the socialist regime wants to stop imperialism, their own environmental colonization has pushed out the indigenous and hurt their own people. It’s ironic that these socialist regimes advocate for social justice and climate change, but end up doing the opposite. It’s clear that the end of socialism will turn a page for the Venezuelan economy and the environment.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.