Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Suriname: Brazilian consul fears clash between Surinamese and Brazilian gold miners

Brazil's consular representative, José Paulo Ribeiro, has warned of escalating conflict near the Lely Mountains in the interior district of Marowijne. "My countrymen are always victims of abuse, extortion, intimidation and fraud," complained Ribeiro. "The torment of Brazilians seems to have become a hobby or a habit to the local people," he added. Ribeiro thinks that the locals are bent upon provoking counter attacks from the Brazilians giving them a reason to create a massive strike and thus to rob them of their equipment and other valuables. "That is the objective they pursue and nothing else. Mind my words,” said Ribeiro. “They simply exploit the situation."
According to Ribeiro, the prospectors have filed their complaints with the police. "But although the laws of the country also apply to the inland residents no action is being taken against them. The state must now 'show its teeth',” added Ribeiro. He remarked that the miners ('Garimpeiros') have been suffering inhumane conditions for ten years now and that the situation has deteriorated. "Almost every week a Brazilian is being abused," claimed Ribeiro. “In mid-May, two Brazilians were knocked about because they refused to give up 5 grams of gold to the local people.” According to Ribeiro, the indigenous residents wanted the gold as compensation for the use of a road to the gold fields.
Around Christmas 2009, serious riots took place between locals and Brazilians in Albina on the border with French Guiana, and the latter had to flee because their houses were set on fire. The tensions between the local population and Brazilian gold miners have been occurring for many years. The Brazilians often mine gold illegally. The locals also do but they consider the land as their property. In the mid-1990s, the late Grand Chief Gazon Matodja of the Maroon tribe, the Aucaners, forbade Brazilians to operate in his area. He took the decision after Brazilians had murdered a local prospector following an argument. Although the land in the area officially belongs to the state, the various local indigenous groups exercise the greatest power in their areas.
For more news and expert analysis about Suriname, please see Suriname Politics & Security.

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