Venezuela: Coalmines on indigenous lands stopped

April 12, 2007

An April 4 Survival International article reported that a decree by Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chavez, had banned the planned construction of new coalmines on the land of the Wayuu, Yukpa and Bari indigenous people in the state of Zulia, which is governed by a leader of the pro-capitalist opposition.

According to a March 21 statement by the Homo et Natura organisation and the Wayuu and Yukpa, environment minister Yubiri Ortega de Carrizalez announced the previous day to protesters that the opening of new coalmines in Zulia was now prohibited, as was the expansion of the existing Guasare and Paso Diablo mines.

The indigenous community and environmentalists have been campaigning for over two years against the expansion of coalmining, which violates the right of indigenous people to determine whether or not mining occurs on their land as stated in Venezuela's constitution, as well as threatening environmental devastation. The indigenous community and environmentalists had called on Chavez to intervene.

The statement claimed that with the presidential decree, the protesters "felt that we had buried in Caracas the ghost of coal and its threats against the indigenous peoples of Zulia state". However, the statement added: "We know that the powerful multinational mining interests in Zulia will keep trying to keep their mega-coal project alive, whatever the cost". They pledged to continue campaigning until coalmining concessions in the region were cancelled.

According to Survival International, de Carrizalez told the indigenous people and evirnomentalists at the demonstration: "The president has ordered a new model of development for the region encompassing ecology, agriculture, tourism and sustainable development."

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