André has travelled across Venezuela and spent time on the boarder with Brazil in order to photograph the worst consequences of the worst economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela in its history: the poorest neighborhoods of Caracas, the hospital of Ciudad Bolivar, the migrants who cross the Venezuelan/Brazilian border, the mines of El Callao.
Since 2015, more than 1.6 million people have left the country. The health care system is collapsing, the shelves of the shops are empty, in the big cities there is rummaged among the waste looking for something to eat. According to the International Monetary Fund in 2018, the rate of inflation could exceed one million percent.
Tensions across South America have flared as the region’s biggest refugee crisis in recent history escalates. As anti-immigrant sentiment grows, other Latin American countries have begun tightening border controls. Peru will begin refusing entry to Venezuelan refugees traveling with just national I.D. cards, rather than passports, as of this Saturday. Ecuador adopted a similar rule, but it was annulled Friday by a judge who called for a broad government plan to deal with the influx.
With the collapse of the revenue of the state-owned oil company Pdvsa and an economy out of control, President Nicolás Maduro needed a new source of revenue. So in 2016 he authorized the extraction of gold and other metals in isolated areas on the border with Guyana.
The Orinoco mining district occupies 12 percent of all of Venezuela. According to the authorities, the area has gold deposits worth two hundred billion dollars. It is the second reserve in the world. Thousands of people, driven by the crisis, are looking for luck here. In a country with the most devalued currency in the world, a few grams of gold can make the difference between life and death. Doctors, drivers, lawyers and unemployed citizens dig side by side. Until recently unknown villages in the heart of the rainforest, such as Las Claritas, Tumeremo, El Callao and El Dorado, are now at the forefront of fight between criminal cartels, guerrillas and corrupt soldiers.