The New York Times: Venezuela Finds No Sign of Massacre

Source – The New York Times (September 2, 2012)
Venezuela Finds No Sign of Massacre

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan officials who traveled to the Amazon to investigate a report of a mass killing in an indigenous community found no evidence of any killings, the government said over the weekend.

Venezuela’s minister for indigenous peoples, Nicia Maldonado, said Saturday that the team of officials traveled by helicopter to a remote jungle area where a Yanomami Indian group reported last week that it had received word of a massacre committed by gold miners in July.

“No evidence of any death was found,” Ms. Maldonado told state television. She said officials had not found a burned communal hut, which the indigenous group said had been reported by people who visited the community and talked with residents.

The Venezuelan government on Sunday released a statement saying its investigators had found no evidence to support the massacre claims, which it called “information generated by some media outlets and destabilizing sectors seeking to generate uncertainty in the population.”

Leaders of the Horonami Yanomami Organization, the community group that released the account last week, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Christina Haverkamp, an indigenous rights activist in Germany, said it was possible that the officials who traveled to the area simply did not find the correct community and should keep investigating. Based on the indigenous group’s account, she said, “I think there were killings.”

“If they want to find the truth, they will only find the truth together with the Yanomami,” Ms. Haverkamp said in a telephone interview on Sunday.

Ms. Haverkamp, who has worked among the Yanomami for two decades, said that finding out what happened would be complicated in part because the Yanomami generally avoid talking about the dead and typically say “a lot” to describe any number greater than three.