Despite deadly risks, Venezuelans flock to gold mines to escape economic crisis – by Franz von Bergen (Fox News Latino – June 06, 2016)

CARACAS, VENEZUELA – José Nieves is a 38-year-old father of two. He is a native of Barlovento, a coastal zone in the center of Venezuela, but for the last three years he has been working almost 500 miles away in Tumeremo, a mining town in close to the border with Brazil.

“I just see my family every three months, but in one week of work in the mines I earn 25 times the salary that I used to have as a construction worker in Barlovento,” Nieves told Fox News Latino.

Every year more people from around Venezuela move to the Sifontes municipality in the state of Bolívar, where most of the mines are, to make money. They do that despite the lawlessness –gangs control much of the area – and mosquito-borne diseases common there.

“In all the towns around Sifontes, the population right now is around 400,000. Of that, 160,000 are people from Miranda, Zulia, Anzoátegui, Mérida and every other Venezuelan state. We also have some people from Brazil and Guyana,” Erick Leiva, head of the Sifontes Chamber of Commerce, told FNL.

Thelmo Fajardo, a representative of the Union of Southern Miners, explained that newcomers begin to work as assistants to the miners while they get experience on the job. “They receive from 5 to 10 gramas of gold in a week,” Fajardo said.

Gramas are the unit in which miners measure gold in Venezuela. They are a small piece of the mineral that weighs around 100 grams. Right now a grama is sold for more than 27,000 bolívars – around $51 at the countries exchange rate for non-essential goods.

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