Venezuelan crime syndicates and Colombian guerrilla groups are creating new threats across southern Venezuela as they compete for control of the region’s valuable mineral resources. Tensions and violence have spiked in recent months, and could worsen in the midst of Venezuela’s presidential crisis.
Why did it happen?
The ongoing economic crisis has driven many impoverished Venezuelans into working in the illegal mining sector. Armed state and non-state actors, Colombian guerrillas foremost among them, have also expanded in this resource-rich region. Fast-declining oil production has turned gold mining into a vital source of revenue.
Why does it matter?
The presence of organised crime and guerrilla groups harms communities, diverts scarce resources and prompts sky-high murder rates.
Their expansion and cross-border operations, especially into Colombia, risk destabilising the entire region at a time of extreme uncertainty in Venezuela.
What should be done?
Providing humanitarian care for affected populations, preserving communications between neighbouring armed forces, and restarting peace talks with rebels in Colombia are essential next steps. Sanctions targeting gold exports are counterproductive and should be abandoned in favour of stronger due diligence on mineral trading.