A non-governmental organization and three people familiar with the case said that an indigenous Venezuelan leader who was opposed to armed groups and illegal mining was shot dead in the capital of the state of Amazonas.
Virgilio Trujillo Arana, a 38-year-old Otoja man, was a defender of the Venezuelan Amazon and created community groups to act as trustees of the Otana municipality in Amazonas.
Arana was shot in the head three times by a gunman who fled into a waiting car in Thursday’s attack in Puerto Ayacucho. He reportedly received threats related to his work.
“In life, Trujillo Arana strongly opposed the presence of foreign groups and the exploitation of illegal mining in the indigenous lands of the Otoja people, in the Alto Guayabo region,” the indigenous rights NGO AC Kape Kape wrote on Twitter.
The Uwottuja community consists of about 15,000 people.
Non-governmental organizations and a United Nations report denounced the existence of violent criminal groups controlling the gold mines in the forest.
The Ministry of Communication and Information and the prosecution did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The communities of Otoja town last February announced their decision to defend their lands against a “silent invasion” by criminal groups, rejecting the illegal exploitation of mining as well as the use of their lands for illegal activities.
Mining has been banned since 1989 in Venezuelathe southern state of Amazonas, which is not part of the so-called Arco Minero, or Mining Arc, A gold mining area of 111,000 square kilometers created by decree in 2016 by the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has asked the government to regulate mining activities and ensure that they are carried out in accordance with international and environmental standards.
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