The Venezuelan government has targeted small-scale miners and illegal mining groups, as seen by a sizable military presence in the valuable southern gold mining region of the nation.

On Nov. 10, Venezuelan soldiers destroyed a rural camp and detained a number of members of the 3R gang, also known as the R Organization (Organización R - OR), which dominates the illegal mining operations in and around the Bolivar state town of Tumeremo.

The security forces have targeted the gang's infrastructure and detained 19 accused OR members and collaborators since their deployment last month.

Other mining gangs, known as sindicatos, have been the target of operations in the surrounding towns of El Callao and Roscio, but Tumeremo, the OR's stronghold, continues to be the deployment's focal point.

Authorities had already entered a mine in Tumeremo and arrested at least three alleged OR members by the time the operation was announced, said local reports.

Earlier this year, military operations aimed at the OR in Tumeremo were widely reported. However, those operations had little impact on the gang, and the military left after protests broke out, InSight Crime reported.

According to General Domingo Hernández Lárez, the head of the Venezuelan Army's strategic operational command, these operations aim to aim to control illegal mining and formally establish this profitable sector.

Taking control of the mines on the OR's territory appears to be the goal of the current military actions.

The Venezuelan government has benefited economically from Bolivar's gold, which has given it some access to foreign markets despite US sanctions. However, due to a lack of technological capability and territorial control, sindicatos rather than the government manage a large portion of the state's mining industry.

The amount of gold that eventually belongs to the government is decreased because these gangs take a portion of the gold generated in mines under their control. Despite numerous attempts, the government has had limited success in establishing control over gold mining.

But the government no longer appears to be willing to accept the status quo.

But it's unlikely that the OR will depart without a fight. One of the most powerful unions in the state, the sindicato is known for its willingness to stand up for the rights of artisanal miners.

The Amazon forest is at threat due to illegal gold mining.
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