Venezuela Must be Dropped from the Kimberley Process

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RAPAPORT… Venezuela, a member of the international Kimberley Process (KP) established in 2003, has refused to comply with KP provisions, and with its own laws on the production and export of rough diamonds. “Conflict diamonds” are gems stolen by rebel armies in order to buy weapons; they have fuelled some of the most horrendous wars of the past two decades. Partnership Africa Canada (PAC,) which exposed the Venezuela problem in November 2006, has called repeatedly on the government of Venezuela to meet its obligations under the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. And it has called repeatedly on the Kimberley Process, chaired by the European Commission, to get tough with Venezuela.

“The silence has been deafening,” said Ian Smillie, research coordinator for Partnership Africa Canada.

“Venezuela made a half-hearted attempt to supply a few statistics earlier this year, but the numbers are simply not credible.” Each member of the KPCS must submit quarterly diamond trade statistics and semi-annual production statistics, and it must demonstrate a system of effective internal diamond controls.

Venezuela had been in default on its statistics since 2005, and claims to have exported no diamonds in more than two years. The 2006 PAC report details how Venezuelan diamonds are being openly mined and smuggled into Guyana and Brazil in full view of government authorities.

The PAC report, The Lost World: Diamond Mining and Smuggling in Venezuela, provides extensive details on the country’s very active artisanal mining operations and the millions of dollars worth of diamonds being smuggled into the legitimate stream.

“The Kimberley Process was designed to stop all this,” Smillie said, “but for some reason, where Venezuela is concerned, the chair and other members of the KP have lost their resolve. Venezuela is not just a weak link in the chain, it demonstrates that the KP is simply not serious. Why should Dubai or Canada or South Africa implement tough regulations, when Venezuela is allowed off the hook without more than a frown?”

PAC’s research into the problem of conflict diamonds began in Sierra Leone in 1999, and has won it several awards, including a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2003 with the British NGO, Global Witness. PAC’s research on diamond smuggling and corruption in Brazil in 2005 and 2006 led to the suspension of all diamond exports from that country for six months while the system was revamped.

Charges were laid in Brazil at the end of August 2007 against more than a dozen criminals and government officials caught up in widespread fraudulent use of Kimberley Process certificates. The 300-page indictment   in Operação Carbono credits PAC with information leading directly to many of the arrests.

Venezuela is the only country in the KPCS that has not hosted or invited a review mission to study its diamond controls, “and with good reason,” says Smillie. “It would not stand up to a moment’s scrutiny.”

PAC stands by what it wrote about Venezuela in its November 2006 report, and it calls upon the Kimberley Process to take tough and immediate action by expelling Venezuela from the international body. “That would disallow any diamond exports to other member countries,” Smillie said, “and it would be a clear signal to the world’s diamond industry and diamond consumers that the Kimberley Process is absolutely serious about putting an end to the criminal behaviour that led to blood diamonds, and to the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people over the past 15 years.”


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