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Colombian police, military offensive is an illegal gold mining operation

MAGWAY PAYAN, Colombia (AP) – Illegal gold mines in the air are reminiscent of wounds in the dense jungles of southern Colombia – red, gray-brown dirt scars that surround poison ponds.

The sound of police և military helicopters flying down the hills makes most of the miners run away, with only a few left behind, trying to resist the police զինվոր the soldiers jumping from the helicopters.

They are quickly exposed to tear gas, and the authorities start setting fire to heavy equipment used for gold mining.

The mine is located in the municipality of Magu Payan, in a remote area of ​​southern Colombia, where there is no running water through the pipeline.

A woman about 40 years old shouts at the soldiers and a handful of journalists accompanying them. “If the state does not allow small miners to work, I can not feed my children because the state does not give me anything.”

According to Mayor Alejandro Ven Uvenal Cuneses, the poverty rate in the region exceeds 80%.

“We survive by work and by the grace of the Holy Spirit,” he told the Associated Press.

There is little piety among the miners, who are the main source of income. They are controlled or at least extorted by organized criminal groups, in this case the current or former partisan opposition groups, which remain the active faction of the National Liberation Front և Colombia demobilized revolutionary armed forces.

Police Lt. Col. Pedro Pablo Astaiza, who led this month’s raid, says armed groups are demanding a 10 percent cut in everything produced by each excavator.

He said the operation had immobilized six excavators worth a total of $ 330,000, machines that could produce about six kilograms of gold a month.

But he said that six months later, the miners may have repaired the machines and put them back to work.

The government says it has attacked 9,235 illegal mines since the beginning of 2019, arrested 3,300 people, destroyed or turned off 450 sewers.

“We are not talking about major farms, ordinary criminals,” said General Jesus Alejandro Barrera Pena, director of rural security at the National Police. “It may be clear that communities are not part of illegal organizations. they are used as tools. “

Illegal mines like Magu Payan are more of a rule than an exception in Colombia մեծ Most of Latin America, where government forces often find it difficult to enforce laws in remote rural areas where criminals have opened shops.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that two-thirds of Colombia’s gold production in 2019 was illegally mined, and the Swiss government-funded transnational organized crime report, which was released in 2016. was more than the illegal export of gold than the smuggling of cocaine in Colombia and Peru.

In recent years, U.S. prosecutors have charged billions of dollars in gold that they say were illegally mined in Latin America, laundered through banks and other institutions.

Just this month, Colombian prosecutors arrested 25 people accused of belonging to groups selling illegal gold to countries such as the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

The wealth they extract leaves devastation. Unregulated mines that use deadly chemicals to extract gold from the ground, endangering local communities that can be passed on for generations.

“To produce one gram of gold, you have to use five grams of mercury; just one gram of mercury can contaminate 500,000 liters of water,” said General Barrera Pena.

It’s a huge loss of revenue for a government that needs resources to strengthen its authority, to pacify the village after decades of clashes with guerrillas and criminal gangs.

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Suarez reports from Bucaramanga, Colombia.

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