Dec. 10 (UPI) — One person was killed and two injured in a Venezuelan gold mining town over the weekend after they were attacked by more than a dozen gunmen.
Indigenous members of the ethnic Pemon group blamed the attack Saturday on agents of the General Direction of Military Counterintelligence, an intelligence unit of the Venezuelan army, El Pais reported.
According to native chiefs, the gunmen first pretended to be tourists who wanted to visit the nearby Salto del Angel waterfalls — but were setting up an ambush.
“Weapons of high potency, two government-owned helicopters of the Corpoelec (Electric Corporation) and the FANB (National Armed Bolivarian Forces)” as well as a third helicopter believed to belong to a private company were part of the assault, the newspaper reported.
Native Charlie Penaloza, 21, was shot dead, and his brother and another person were injured in what appeared to be a military commando incursion in the Canaima region of southern Venezuela’s Bolivar state, Spain’s El Pais reported Monday.
In response, natives captured three supposed attackers, one of whom was tied up for six hours and questioned. They also burned a camp area of the state electric company and closed a landing strip, according to reports El Pais obtained from local journalists and a Congress representative.
Indigenous groups are concerned the two injured were airlifted to a hospital located some 310 miles away, because the military guards the area.
Another report by Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional said former Gran Sabana Mayor Ricardo Delgado said the attack is the result of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s actions to remove natives from the gold rich areas.
“As also members of the Pemones (native) group we tell the government that we are ready to fight to support our brothers,” Delgado said, according to El Nacional.
Maduro announced in Russia last week he’d secured contracts to receive $1 billion from Moscow to spend on gold mining activities and repairs for the country’s weapon systems. He also secured help to try to recover oil production as well as promises of wheat shipments. The Caracas government is having difficulties obtaining revenues, as oil production has plunged in recent years due to mismanagement, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The United States imposed sanctions last month against Venezuelan gold exports, claiming the revenues were being used to support illicit activities, fill coffers and support criminal groups.