Tom Phillips

September 27, 2011

Elton Thompson was out drinking when he was bludgeoned to death by a miner called Frank. He was 14. Arturo Balcazar was a shopkeeper. He was gunned down on a riverboat as his wife looked on. Alan Welch was 54. He was clubbed to death with tree trunks and branches after being accused of theft.

Three men, three murders but apparently one common cause: the global economic crisis that has sent gold prices through the roof and aggravated an already cut-throat scramble for gold in the South American Amazon.

Across the Amazon all-time record gold prices, which are the result of investors seeking a safe haven from the US and European economic slump, are reportedly adding fuel to a chaotic jungle gold rush. This has brought violence, disease and conflict to the mineral-rich rainforests of BrazilGuyanaPeruBoliviaColombia and Venezuela.

“There is a direct correlation between the price of gold and what we have to deal with these days,” David Ramnarine, a Guyanan police commander, told the Demerara Waves news website after a string of gold-related killings in his country, including those of Thompson, Balcazar and Welch.

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