Indians’ mining victory

Venezuela’s environment minister has announced a presidential decree banning the building of new coal mines planned for the Sierra de Perijá in the state of Zulia. The expansion of existing mines is also prohibited.

This is a tremendous victory for the Barí, Yukpa and Wayúu Indians in the region who have long opposed coal mining and its negative impacts on the environment. The Sierra de Perijá is noted for its rich biodiversity and forest. Many rivers have their source in the mountain range.

The minister told indigenous representatives and environmental NGOs, ‘The president has ordered a new model of development for the region encompassing ecology, agriculture, tourism and sustainable development.’

However, many Barí and Yukpa communities are still campaigning for their land rights to be recognised. Some have been evicted from their land by cattle ranchers, who are steadily encroaching onto indigenous territories and employ gunmen to threaten and terrorise the Indians.

According to a local NGO, Homo et Natura, armed men employed by a local ranchers invaded the Yukpa community of Chaktapa in February, setting fire to the Indians’ houses, shooting at them and forcing them to abandon their land. This community has been targeted on several occasions in the last few years.

Survival has recently received reports that Barí living in the community of Boksi are being targeted by soldiers who are confiscating fuel the Indians use for their boats, their only method of transport.