Army ranks posted at the border areas with Venezuela recovered drums of fuel yesterday, one day after they were stolen by soldiers of that neighbouring country, in what has been said to be an escalating situation.
According to an official of the affected mining operation, ranks of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) accompanied the General Manager of the camp over to the Venezuela side of the border, across the Cuyuni River.
There, after engagements with the National Guard personnel, it was agreed that the five drums of fuel would be returned.
“We did not receive the monies they took from the boat. They said they did not take any monies.”
According to a statement from the miners to local police and the GDF, on Thursday, around 4:30pm, they were proceeding to camp along the Cuyuni River in the vicinity of Akarabisi when they were approached by the Venezuela National Guard. The Venezuelans were in a white wooden boat.
“The Venezuela National Guard pointed their guns at us and ordered us over to the Venezuela side of the border where they have their base.”
According to the statement, the mining workers were searched and one of them was stripped of his clothing.
The National Guards ranks searched the fuel boat which had 15 drums of diesel.
The fuel had been purchased from a place called San Martin, across in Venezuela, further up river.
The National Guards found US$130 and $210,000 in a bucket on the boat and took these, the miners said.
The National Guards also took five drums of diesel from the boat, leaving 10 behind.
The mining workers said that after the incident they proceeded to the army base at Akarabisi and made a report. They attempted to do the same at another area called Kurishi but no police were available there.
The matter is reportedly engaging the attention of Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan.
Miners are appealing for more protection.
The situation along the Venezuelan border with Guyana has been tense for a while now as armed gangs known as the Syndicatos and soldiers man the Cuyuni River, which separates the two countries, forcing boats to pay to pass.
For fuel boats, the Syndicatos and now National Guards are demanding one pint per drum of fuel.
“But lately, the Syndicatos…and there are two bases along the Cuyuni…have been demanding that we give two pints per drums. Imagine you got to pay three control points to pass on a river that from what I understand belong to us?”
The Cuyuni River is heavily used.
Government had increased patrols along the river with officials travelling to Eteringbang and other key points to assess the threats.
According to miners, the situation has been escalating with one passenger- a policeman- shot recently by Syndicatos after the boat he was in refused to stop.
Venezuela is facing major economic problems with food and medicine shortages widespread and infrastructure collapsing in that oil-rich country.
Armed gangs have been moving more to the border areas with Venezuelans fleeing to neighbouring countries, including Guyana, Trinidad, Brazil and other South American nations.
With miles and miles of river, army and other authorities have been facing uphill challenges to man the Venezuela border.
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