Caracas, Venezuela, July 8 (AP) Venezuelan authorities say they are investigating the murder of an indigenous leader who spoke out against illegal mining in a remote part of the country near the Amazon rainforest.
Virgilio Trujillo was shot on June 30 in broad daylight in Puerto Ayacucho, a small border town that is the capital of the Venezuelan state of Amazonas.
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Douglas Rico, the country’s investigative police chief, said this week that a group of detectives had been sent to the area to collect clues and conduct interviews.
Rico wrote on Twitter that the indigenous chief may have been killed by one of the region’s illegal armed groups who smuggle gold, drugs and other contraband along the porous border. with Colombia.
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Trujillo was a member of the Uwotujja ethnic group and founded an organization of unarmed environmental guards who monitored the activities of illegal miners on indigenous territory.
The indigenous rights group Kape Kape said on its website that Trujillo had accompanied the Venezuelan army on patrols during which soldiers seized equipment from illegal miners and also destroyed airstrips used by drug traffickers.
Venezuela’s indigenous territories are under increasing pressure from illegal gold mining in the Amazonas and also in a strip of territory along the Orinoco River that was designated by the Venezuelan government as a Special Development Zone in 2016.
Miners working in tandem with rebel groups have also settled in Canaima National Park, which is covered in rainforest and home to the tallest waterfall in the world.
According to the Observatory for the Defense of Life, a regional human rights group, 32 environmental and indigenous leaders have been assassinated in Venezuela since 2013. (AP)
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