Venezuela Congress to discuss case of missing miners

CARACAS, Venezuela - Opposition politicians on Tuesday demanded Venezuela's government do more to determine what happened to a group of missing miners allegedly killed by gang members.

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More than 1,000 soldiers fanned out across the southeastern jungle state of Bolivar to search for the 28 miners who relatives say were dismembered and disappeared by a gang seeking to take over a disputed gold claim.

The country's opposition-controlled Congress planned to discuss later Tuesday whether state agents might have been involved in the disappearances.

Families and people who said they witnessed the attack accused law enforcement agents of participating. Lawmaker Americo de Grazia said that given the number of missing miners, the reported atrocity could have taken place only with the complicity of local officials.

Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez denied these claims.

"We know very well who is behind these accusations, and we won't fall for the provocations of the old political establishment," he said. "We won't rest until we know everything about incident, which is abhorrent to all Venezuelans."

Bolivar state Gov. Francisco Rangel, a staunch ally of Venezuela's governing socialist administration, has said there is still no proof a massacre occurred.

Local media quoted people involved with the case as saying they feared for their safety, pointing to the military taking control of their small town and voicing concerns that gang members might be seeking to quiet them.

The public prosecutor's office is investigating, and has taken protective measures for two miners' relatives.


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