They accuse the Maduro regime of underestimating tragedy in illegal mine

LA PARAGUA, Venezuela.- Relatives and friends of those who died in the collapse in an illegal gold mine south of Venezuela They began to bury their loved ones this Thursday, while the official death toll is expected to rise, which so far is 16.

The residents of La Paragua, the community closest to the “Bulla Loca” mine, which collapsed on Tuesday leaving dozens of people boarded up, demand the regime’s assistance to transport the injured and the bodies recovered from the collapse on Tuesday.

The accident occurred in the context of a mining activity that is poorly regulated in Venezuela and to which thousands of very low-income Venezuelans have resorted to overcome poverty in the southern part of the country.

The regime – which has seen oil production fall near its lowest levels in decades as a result of mismanagement and corruption – in 2016 established a huge mining development zone known as the Orinoco Mining Arc, which stretches across the center of Venezuela, to diversify their income.

Since then, gold, copper, diamond and other precious metal mines have proliferated, but in many, workers carry out their work in poor safety conditions. Many are illegal mines.

As mourners filled the La Paragua cemetery, dozens of residents gathered outside a restaurant where they believed the state governor was eating. The group demanded to speak with Ángel Marcano, a close ally of Nicolás Maduro, and at one point hit an all-terrain vehicle parked outside. Intelligence service agents with long weapons and police attended the scene.

During the night of Wednesday, authorities raised the death toll to 16 and an equal number of injuries.

Both numbers are expected to rise as residents accuse government officials of underestimating the extent of the devastating tragedy.


William Nadales, who was working with at least 50 other miners when a torrent of clay-colored mud fell, went to the cemetery to help bury several of his colleagues, including his 22-year-old nephew Gerson Leal.

“My nephew was a field worker, a banana planter. “He went to the mine hoping to buy a motorcycle,” Nadales said, recounting how he had to transport the body of his nephew overnight, six hours on a boat to La Paragua, for his burial. “The ravine killed him in one go, the boy was 22 years old, he had never worked the mine. I had to get him out,” he said.

Meanwhile, several relatives, neighbors and friends cried when the coffin of miner Santiago Mora, 24, who was among the miners who died in the collapse, was lowered into the ground.

“We are going to miss you too much!” They shouted after placing flowers on the wooden coffin with insulating tape. “Stand up, Santiago!”

Search work

Hours earlier, Major General Carlos Pérez Ampueda, vice minister for Risk Management and Civil Protection, reported in a statement that specialists from different areas that are part of the Simón Bolívar Humanitarian Task Force, with international experience in disaster situations, were incorporated to support search and rescue efforts for victims.

A group of fishermen from La Paragua also participates in the relief efforts, helping to transport the deceased and injured.

In La Paragua, a field hospital was also set up in tents to care for and classify patients according to the type and severity of their injuries, as well as others with experts in forensic medicine, Pérez Ampueda highlighted.

The mine, where dozens of people normally work, is located in a roadless area that can only be reached after a journey of hours in small boats, which must avoid sandbanks and the low water level in this time of year, which has made rescue difficult.

The collapse occurred on Tuesday afternoon and several miners were trapped in the mine, located in the Angostura municipality of Bolívar state, about 460 kilometers southeast of the capital. Angostura is an area where there are many lakes, swamps and important rivers such as the Caroní, which feeds Guri, the largest hydroelectric complex in the country.

Despite brutal conditions and the presence of criminal gangs, Venezuelans continue to flock to mining centers in hopes of getting rich quickly and escaping the crushing poverty in urban centers that has driven more than eight million Venezuelans to emigrate in recent years.

In the south of the states of Amazonas and Bolívar, there is growing illegal mining and criminal gangs that smuggle gold have multiplied, according to authorities and critics of the regime.

FOUNTAIN: With information from AP