The Venezuela-Guyana Blood Diamond Trail

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Girish Gupta’s dissection of the Santa Elena de Uairén-to-Georgetown diamond trafficking route in Time is well worth a read:

Underground traffickers agree. “You’d have to be blind to believe” that the Kimberly Process is doing its job in Venezuela, says the Santa Elena trader. “It’s a little bit more difficult now [since the KP was established in 2003] to smuggle and certify the diamonds. But we do.”

It starts at the mines themselves. The town of Icabarú is one clandestine mining hub near the border with Brazil – a bumpy, four-hour drive from Santa Elena through the Gran Sabana, an otherworldly stretch of savannah, jungle and flat-topped tepui mountains that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World. Icabarú’s lush vegetation also hides the misery of child miners. At one site, an 11-year-old boy beats the orange earth with an axe, the spray from a hose soaking his grimy clothes as he works under an unrelenting sun alongside his father.

Read the whole thing.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great work from Gupta. This part stuck with me:

    “Requests for Venezuelan diamond output data and interviews with key ministers were refused, he says. The country has since resumed submitting reports, but they’re usually late and “a joke,” according to one PAC official.”

    A joke indeed. Of course, cracking down on illegal mining and child labor in Icabarú is not bound to get you votes unlike, say, handing out dishwashers in Parapara. Hence, they have no time for that sort of thing.

    Negligence, incompetence. When will this nightmare end?

  2. “Blood diamonds”?

    Illegal mining and child labor, but not funding of violent paramilitaries, which is the issue in Africa, and gave rise to the term.

  3. This sucks. As you fly from Puerto Ordaz to Canaima you see gaps in the forest everywhere, large section of jungle all torn down from illegal miners either looking for diamonds or gold. Of course, just as in the gas smuggling business, I’m sure Guardia Nacional and other authority agencies are involved in this affair. And the goverment surely doesn’t give a $%#$^.

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