Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido has urged Switzerland to crack down on illegal gold mining in the Amazon.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, he accused those who purchase the precious metal of financing a “criminal conglomerate” and armed groups.
He claims gold trafficking props up the government of Venezuela and guerilla movements such as the National Liberation Army in Colombia.
“The first thing to do is to stop the illegal traffic of gold. We need to protect indigenous population. It is blood gold,” Guaido said.
“Maybe there is a need for sanctions,” he added in comments relayed through an interpreter, noting that Venezuela’s neighbour Colombia was already helping.
Switzerland remains the world’s largest gold trading market, and the metal is one of the country’s key imports and exports.
Denouncing Maduro’s ‘dictatorship’
Guaido is the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly and has been recognized by dozens of countries as the interim head of state.
He asked for help in leading the country to make it “free” of the “dictatorship” of President Nicolas Maduro and “committed to human rights.”
The Venezuelan political crisis has caused big tension between Maduro and US President Donald Trump, who considers Mr Guaido as Venezuela’s head of state and also attended the Davos meeting.
Switzerland, however, has not endorsed either of the competing Venezuelan leaders.
Mr. Guaido is the “legitimate president of the Venezuelan parliament”, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis told the press on Thursday. “We welcome him in this role” in Davos.
After the start of tensions with Venezuela, the United States had asked Switzerland to represent its interests in this country. This still requires the approval of Maduro.
The latter, Cassis explained, is willing to give the “go-ahead” but only once the question of Venezuelan interests in the United States Is resolved.
Washingon has imposed sweeping sanctions on the Venezuelan government and frozen its assets in the US in a bid to pressure Maduro to step down.
Maduro consolidated power in 2017 by stripping the country of opposition-led legislature of power amid a massive humanitarian and economic crisis.