In Tumeremo, deep in Venezuela’s south-east, the battle is not for the Essequibo but for a decent life

In Tumeremo, deep in Venezuela’s south-east, the battle is not for the Essequibo but for a decent life

En Tumeremo, la batalla de sus pobladores es por el día a día y no por la soberanía de Venezuela




880.1 kilometers separate Caracas from Tumeremo, in the south of Bolívar State, a road trip that takes more than 12 hours to get from one place to the other. Nicolás Maduro announced a few days ago the creation of a military division to “tend to” the territory in dispute with Guyana.

Pableysa Ostos // Correspondent

The headquarters will be in Tumeremo, an area that is little known for many Venezuelans, but that has become news for being an extensive mining area and the reckless exploitation without any environmental concern. It has also come to the public spotlight, because massacres have been recorded there, which in some cases have involved members of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB). Today it is the center of attention again, because geographically it is the closest territory to Guyana.

“The Comprehensive Defense Zone (Zodi) Guayana Esequiba was created, with three development areas (…), dependent militarily and administratively on the Comprehensive Defense Region (Redi) Guayana,” said Maduro during an event with mayors, governors, ministers, diplomats, military and other senior officials.

Tumeremo is located 394.6 kilometers from Brazil and about 80 kilometers from the border of the disputed area, which for Venezuela is a claim area, while Guyana assumes it as an integral part of its territory.

Maduro appointed General Alexis Rodríguez Cabello (cousin of Diosdado Cabello) as the Sole Authority of the so-called ‘Guayana Esequiba’, the name that Chavismo gave to that land of almost 160,000 square kilometers and in which Venezuela has not had control over since 1899.

What Maduro did not report was that the road to Tumeremo is in terrible conditions, that several times they have promised to recover the ‘Troncal 10’ (Main Highway 10), but these repairs have never been carried out. The road has deteriorated more and more as time has passed.

We were surprised that the trip from El Callao to Tumeremo used to be approximately 30 minutes, but now due to the terrible road conditions it can be up to an hour, for example.

The residents of the mining area constantly suffer from power failures and irregularities in the water service occur every day. The streets of the town are also in very poor condition.

During a visit made by the team to the mining town, its inhabitants told us part of what they expect with this “new plan.”

They agree that: “the place to be the epicenter is the town of Tumeremo, since it is the only one that has a way to and from Guyana although there is no road that connects us directly. From the ‘Casa Blanca’ (White House) checkpoint to the left there is a faster track.”

Other interests

En Tumeremo, la batalla de sus pobladores es por el día a día y no por la soberanía de Venezuela




In the town square, the inhabitants pointed out that they had only heard rumors of what could happen in Tumeremo with Maduro’s announcement, but the people’s priority is not precisely ‘recovering Essequibo’, but the arrival of the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration and Immigration (Saime).

“To get an ID card you have to go to Puerto Ordaz. At least I couldn’t vote in the advisory referendum, because my ID card had expired. I voted in San Antonio and I didn’t have the money for the fare to go there either and it is also important for the community,” said Antonio González, an artisanal miner.

Luis López, another miner in the area, highlighted that since the arrival of the military to Tumeremo there have been evictions in the mines. “We are suffering need and hardship because we can’t find a mine to go to work, because we don’t know when the Government is going to let someone enter the mine to work.”

“The only way to survive in this chaos, in this country, is the mine. When the mines close, well, how are the poor going to manage? Where does one stand? If it is like they say that they are going to open sources of work, I hope it happens quickly, otherwise we will all die of hunger. Here, where is one going to live, at least those who have, have something to hold on to, but those who don’t…” López added.

They expect benefits

During our tour, a caravan of Toyota 4Runner SUVs with escorts arrived in town. The displayed paraphernalia announced the arrival of the governor of the state of Bolívar, Ángel Marcano; General Alexis Rodríguez Cabello, Sole Authority of the now state of Guayana Esequiba; General Edgar Colina Reyes, Secretary of Citizen Security of Bolívar; as well as other representatives of the government cabinet.

They were all received by the Mayor of the Sifontes Municipality, Juan Vicente Rojas, in what would be the facilities where the SAIME offices will operate. The place was without electrical power, to which Rodríguez Cabello asked Mayor Rojas if this situation was due to a scheduled outage by Corpoelec. The response was immediate: “No, this is every day.”

The population is left without electricity daily and some sectors are more affected than others. That is why SAIME will operate from a trailer until the office that will be the headquarters is fully equipped. According to what was made known, another mobile unit will arrive in San Martín de Turumbán, a town about 3 hours from Tumeremo to also carry out operations in that area.

The inhabitants only hope that, as Tumeremo will be the capital of Guayana Esequiba, Maduro’s regime will improve public services, not only electricity and water, but also internet and roads both in the town and on its outskirts.

“We expect benefits with the problem of water, Cantv (National Telecommunications monopoly), paving, street lighting, and we would be a little calmer having all these types of ‘benefits’ that we need here in the municipality,” declared a public worker.

Lack of security

En Tumeremo, la batalla de sus pobladores es por el día a día y no por la soberanía de Venezuela




Also during our tour, some ladies in the plaza raised questions about the work carried out by “Be careful with those people, because surely what they are going to write is that in Tumeremo we are dying of hunger”; “be careful if those people from La Patilla take you pictures”; “Be attentive to what the people of La Patilla are talking about,” were some of the accusations issued against the reporting team.

We moved away from that place and talked with other residents about the presence of criminal gangs in the area. “Since the arrival of the (military) operations, the gang that operates here has been moving out. Sometimes, you see one or another of the gang in the town, but for example, things are happening that were not seen when their control (criminals) was total, such as the theft of motorcycles and criminals breaking into houses to steal. And you can’t talk much about these issues either, because you don’t know who might be listening.”

“I have lived here all my life (32 years) and I had never thought about moving, because I love my town, but with this issue of such great insecurity, I am already thinking about leaving,” added the young man who works in a business a few meters from the square.

Beyond the dispute between Venezuela and Guyana, for the inhabitants of Tumeremo the priorities are different. Rather than getting involved in the territorial defense of the country, they rather want to win the hard battle of everyday life with better living conditions. They hope that the new political landscape provides benefits to live with dignity.