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first_imgBy Noelani Kirschner / ShareAmerica / Edited by Diálogo Staff March 27, 2020 A new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) details the gruesome conditions that gold miners in Venezuela are forced to endure.Twelve percent of Venezuela, a country rich in natural resources such as oil, diamonds and uranium, has gold and mineral deposits.In Venezuela’s southern Bolívar state, pro-Maduro civilian armed groups force miners to work, employing physical abuse and fear tactics to control gold production.The Maduro regime allows the groups using these tactics to oversee gold mining operations. According to the report, witnesses have reported seeing a top government official patrolling mines.HRW spent two years collecting testimonials from Venezuelan gold miners and people living in gold mining towns.According to the report, “many mines in Bolívar are under the tight control of Venezuelan syndicates or Colombian armed groups,” such as the guerrilla organization the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish), and the National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish).These armed groups enforce arbitrary “laws” to instill fear and keep order among mining communities. They accuse miners and innocent civilians of theft before publicly cutting off their fingers and hands, and, in extreme cases, executing them, according to witnesses interviewed for the report.There is no enforced judicial system to protect the victims.The gold mines, located in the southern part of the country, operate in close proximity to indigenous communities. As a result, indigenous people are often forced to work in the mines against their will.The working conditions of mines are hazardous. Toxic amounts of mercury are used to clean the gold ore, and there are little to no safety measures taken to prevent workplace injury.The report details how a 16-year-old boy sustained a spinal fracture from a falling log that hit him as he was using a high-pressure hose without any protective gear.Additionally, in testimony before the U.S. Congress on illicit mining in Venezuela, a U.S. State Department official reported that people in mining communities are “exploited in forced labor or sex trafficking, compelled through violence and fear by the group running the mine. There have been reports that in some regions, the average age of sex trafficking victims is 13–14 years old.”The HRW report says miners are forced to give up to 80 percent of their gold to the syndicates, and town residents must pay gold to armed groups to keep their businesses operational.The HRW report underscores the concerns voiced by Interim President and National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He requested that Venezuela’s allies stop purchasing Venezuelan gold until human rights abuses end.“The first thing to do is to stop the illegal traffic of gold,” Guaidó said, according to Reuters. “It’s blood gold.”last_img read more

first_img‘Times of hardship’ Khamenei advised Iranians that “everyone should follow the instructions” of the authorities to fight the epidemic “so that Almighty God will put an end to this calamity for the Iranian people, for all Muslim nations and for all mankind”.Jahanpour said Tehran province had reported 249 new cases and the central province of Yazd, where 84 new patients had been counted, “could become a new focus of the disease in the coming days”.To limit the spread of the virus, the authorities have asked people to refrain from travelling during the nation’s current New Year celebrations. In Iran “about 68 percent of deaths from COVID-19 disease are people over 60 years of age”, Jahanpour said, stressing that family trips “are generally risk factors for this age group”. Iran has a population of some 81 million and the disease is present in all 31 provinces. While it refuses to seek assistance from the American “Great Satan”, the Islamic Republic has not closed the door to international help. Iran said that by mid-March it had received medical equipment or financial aid from Azerbaijan, Britain, China, France, Germany, Japan, Qatar, Russia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced Sunday it would send a 50-bed inflatable hospital and a nine-person emergency team to Isfahan, Iran’s third largest city. “Iran is by far the hardest hit country in the region and Isfahan is the second most affected province in the country, and we hope that our aid will relieve, at least in part, the pressure on the local health system,” said Julie Reverse, MSF’s representative in Iran.  Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei said Sunday his country would never accept any aid to fight the novel coronavirus from arch-enemy and “charlatans” the United States, as Tehran announced 129 new deaths.Speaking in a televised address, Khamenei charged in a message directed at Washington: “No one trusts you. You are capable of bringing into our country a drug that will keep the virus alive and prevent its eradication.”Iran has been one of the countries worst hit by the COVID-19 illness along with Italy, Spain and China, and the latest fatalities raised the official death toll to 1,685, the health ministry said. More than 1,028 new cases in the past 24 hours meant a total of 21,638 people had now tested positive for the virus, said ministry spokesman Kianouche Jahanpour.US President Donald Trump — who has stepped up sanctions and a “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran over its nuclear program — said on February 29 that Washington was ready to help Iran fight the virus if its leaders requested it. But Khamenei reiterated Iran’s rejection, charging that Washington, which whom it has had no diplomatic relations for more than 40 years, was “capable” of wanting to intensify the epidemic in the Islamic republic.”Today America is our most ferocious and vicious enemy,” Khamenei said in his address to the nation. “The American leaders are liars, manipulators, impudent and greedy … They are charlatans,” he said, also labeling them “absolutely ruthless” and “terrorists”.The American proposals “to help us with medicines and treatments, provided we ask for them, are strange”, he said, noting that the United States itself suffers from “a horrible shortage not only of disease prevention equipment but also of medicines”. Speaking to Washington, he added: “If you have something, use it for yourself.” Topics :last_img read more