Half a million and counting: Venezuelan exodus puts new strains on Colombian border town

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The town of Cúcuta offers few jobs, little shelter and much crime, but for Venezuelan migrants it’s better than home

The sun is burning at the Colombian border town of Cúcuta. Red Cross workers attend to people with dehydration and fatigue as hundreds of Venezuelans line up to have their passports stamped, covering their heads with clothing and cardboard to fashion what shade they can.

Read my article for IRIN News.

Maduro seeks sell off of Venezuela’s natural resources to escape debt – analysis

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President Nicolás Maduro, an enigmatic smile blossoming beneath his tradmark mustache, proudly displays a gold ingot to the Venezuelan press. The metal is reportedly part of a batch dug and processed inside the Arco Minero, a vast area covering 112,000 square kilometers (43,243 square miles), south of the Orinoco River and in the Venezuelan Amazon.

Meanwhile, in the middle of the Arco Minero, a minerals expert who asks not to be named out of concern for his safety, flashes an even bigger smile as he casts doubt on the authenticity of that ingot and of the first batch of Arco Minero gold.

Read my article for Mongabay.

Digging into the Mining Arc

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For three months our reporter travelled Venezuela’s disputed mining areas where he was confronted with illegal armed groups, indigenous communities repressed by Colombian guerrillas and enclaves of informal miners tormented by malaria. An illegal detention by the National Guard almost prematurely ended this investigation.

In this journey, we talked to miners, companies, academics, indigenous, politicians and activists and gathered exclusive material on Latin America’s most underreported natural resources conflict.

Made possible by InfoAmazonia, Correo del Caroni in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Conflict Reporting.

Visit our platform on mining conflicts in Venezuela.

Venezuela’s Mining Arc boom sweeps up Indigenous people and cultures

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LAS CLARITAS, Venezuela – They gather in the hundreds, or maybe even thousands, in the early morning, their numbers perhaps tenfold the population of the town itself. Groups of miners, carrying pickaxes and gold pans, meet along the chaotic roads to catch rides by any mode of transport possible, headed to the illegal gold mines that lie outside the village.

Read my article for Mongabay.

Muzo: Colombia’s Emerald Kingdom

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Muzo, Colombia – It is here where clouded forests overgrow the mountain slopes in which world’s most valuable emeralds are hidden. For much of history, Colombia has been the global provider of emeralds, though in the last decade it has given way to Zimbabwe and Brazil. In an attempt to organize mining and to not miss out on the profits of emeralds that often are smuggled out of the country, the government decided to formalize the sector in 2001.

Have a look at my photo essay for Resource Worlds.