Sunday, March 13, 2016

When Governments Lose Control of Environmental Regulation--The Case of Southern Venezuela

Click for photo credit.
About a week ago 28 miners were killed in southern Venezuela. The deaths were reportedly a brutal attack with some of the miners shot and others killed with chainsaws. Mining in this part of the country is run largely by mafia like gangs who are linked with the government and the military. The deaths are clearly associated with some sort of conflict over mining.

In many ways it reminds me of the days back in the 80's when right-wing gangs linked with organized crime were causing havoc in Central America. Today, it is the socialist Chavista government that is taking the heat. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. The government of Venezuela is often called a kleptocracy or a narcostate due to widespread corruption. So many officials have earned great wealth while in power and have disregarded their public duty. The death of these miners is just a symptom of the problem. There is very little environmental regulation in the region and there is great concern over long-term environmental pollution of the fragile ecosystems of southern Venezuela and the health of indigenous populations in the area.

A newspaper editor in Venezuela was just sentenced to four years in jail for publishing accounts of corruption in the mining sector of that country. As a result, many doubt that the government will effectively investigate the miners' deaths and protests have erupted in southern Venezuela. Many have called on international groups to investigate the murders and to put a stop to the illegal mining that has caused so much environmental disruption and human misery.

No comments: