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Venezuela Indians release soldiers held captive

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 10, 2013 at 8:38 pm •  Published: February 10, 2013
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"This situation began due to abuses by soldiers," said Alexis Romero, a Pemon activist. He said soldiers routinely stop Pemon Indians to search them for gold, often detaining them for several hours.

An estimated 30,000 Pemon live in Venezuela's vast Gran Sabana region in the eastern state of Bolivar, which is covered by rolling grasslands and dotted with plateaus.

President Hugo Chavez's government has been trying for years to crack down on illegal mining that tears up the forests and pollutes rivers.

Gonzalez said the government officials agreed to permit mining by the Indians and promised not to prosecute tribal leaders responsible for taking the soldiers hostage and temporarily confiscating their weapons.

Romero said by telephone that under the agreement government authorities also pledged to investigate alleged abuses by soldiers and to round up and deport some foreigners, including Brazilians and Colombians, who are involved in illegal mining.

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Christopher Toothaker on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ctoothaker