By Jorge Silva
We are just north of the Amazon Basin, riding a boat on the Ikabaru River. The passengers are people who buy gold and diamonds. They stop at each of the illegal mines that appear as craters on the river’s edge. They carry small weighing scales that seem very accurate, magnifying loupes, burners to melt the gold and separate the mercury, and some large spoons to collect it.
They are also carrying bags full of cash.
We are very close to the porous and at times imperceptible triple border between Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana. The area is remote and hard to access. Getting here takes a day of navigating along the river, or flying in one of the small planes that land on makeshift dirt landing strips. There are no roads.
By Jorge Silva
Before the recent election campaign in Venezuela, the last time that I had been close enough to Hugo Chavez to use a wide angle lens was last February when he left for Cuba to be treated for a recurrence of his cancer. That farewell began as a solemn procession through the streets of Caracas, with Chavez dressed in black, riding in a dark van with open sunroof and an image of Christ on the windshield. His supporters showered him with flowers on the way to the airport, as he left his followers in suspended animation, and his future full of doubt.
This campaign was a re-encounter with him; one that many didn’t believe would happen again. His cancer disappeared from the agenda, and Chavez was back. For his followers it was the difference between night and day, or the idea of a Venezuela without him contrasted with his reappearance in power, where he had been for the last 14 years.
By Jorge Silva
About a year ago, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez surprised us during a routine coverage at his Miraflores palace in Caracas. He appeared with a walking cane.
That was the first time he had ever shown any hint of a physical problem, or indeed any notion of fragility. A few days after that, he left on a tour of Ecuador, Brazil and Cuba where he was hospitalized and received emergency surgery in Havana. Weeks later, Chavez confirmed that a malignant, baseball-sized tumor had been removed from his pelvis, and the saga began.
By Jorge Silva
It was during my eternal search for unique moments to capture that I was witness to the most spectacular and magical event – the arrival of a new life.
The United Nations announced the pending birth of the planet’s inhabitant number 7,000,000 for October 31, and that gave me the chance to work on a series of photos that became the most emotional and satisfying of my career.
The inhabitants of a Caribbean fishing village with no cinema, have become movie stars.
When I was invited to attend the screening of the movie “The Kid Who Lies” (El Chico que Miente) in the same village on Venezuela’s Caribbean coast where it was filmed, I had no doubt it would be a fantastic experience.
Something has changed in Port-au-Prince a year after the January 12th earthquake. The desperate screams of pain that followed the disaster have been converted into silent, enduring tears.
At times it seems that the quake was just yesterday. Many streets look more like the aftermath of a bomb than a natural disaster. During a religious mass to honor the victims in the country’s only soccer stadium, a speaker at the microphone asked all those who lost loved ones to raise their hands. The surge of rising hands sounded like the deep sigh of thousands.
I crossed the border into Haiti from the Dominican Republic 36 hours after the earthquake hit. As we drove closer to Port-au-Prince, we began to see scenes of destruction and suffering, which only multiplied as we entered the city covered in smoke and in shock.
My first sensation was of absolute powerlessness; the pain, chaos and destruction were so overwhelming it seemed impossible to register it all. It was hard to know where to start, to find the exact words to describe everything that was happening and continues to happen. To translate all that it into images is a huge challenge.
SAN ANTONIO, Venezuela, Nov 3 (Reuters) – Venezuelan soldiers blocked the main border crossing with Colombia on Tuesday after President Hugo Chavez’s government said paramilitaries were behind the killing of two soldiers.
In the latest violence in an often lawless region between the Andean neighbors, a gang of four men on motorbikes ambushed and shot dead the Venezuelan soldiers at a checkpoint in western Tachira state on Monday.
Venezuela blamed Colombian paramilitaries for the murders, ratcheting up the diplomatic feud between Chavez’s leftist government and the administration of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who is Washington’s main ally in the region.
"Sadly, our two men were brutally murdered by groups operating in the frontier zone, trying to spread fear and create an atmosphere of insecurity," local army head Franklin Marquez said. The pair were shot in the back in apparent revenge for a crackdown by security forces, he added.
Paramilitary gangs, originally set up to fight Colombian guerrillas, operate in the border area, as do rebels, and a host of criminal gangs trafficking gasoline and drugs.
Witnesses in the Venezuelan border town of San Antonio said dozens of soldiers with an armoured car and machine gun had taken over the road to the nearest Colombian locality, Cucuta.
While large queues of cars formed on both sides, hundreds of locals crossed by foot under a bridge, loaded with suitcases and bags of goods, Reuters witnesses said.
Visiting Tachira, Venezuelan Vice President Ramon Carrizalez said there was no formal closure of the border, but "we are obliged to take strict control measures."
Venezuelan authorities said one man had been arrested for Monday’s incident.
The killing of the soldiers was the latest in a string of incidents on the border, including arrests on both sides, and the discovery of 10 corpses of men whom Venezuela said were mainly Colombian paramilitaries.
In a major political spat, Caracas is holding three men — two Colombians and one Venezuelan — charged with spying for Bogota. Chavez, who says Colombia has sold out to the United States, cut ties and reduced trade earlier this year.
Colombia’s Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez said his government was ready to talk with Venezuela to reduce tensions. "The door is open," he said during a visit to Ecuador.
"We know there are sensitive issues with that country, but we we want to have the best relations." (Additional reporting by Alexandra Valencia in Quito; Luis Jaime Acosta in Bogota; Eyanir Chinea in Caracas; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Masum Ghar, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
Operation in Sanjaray
Embedded with the Canadian Army in Kandahar.
On May 16th I reached the forward operating base (FOB) after traveling in an convoy of armoured vehicles that left from Kandahar Airfield.
We set out from the FOB in a different armoured convoy traveling for a “secret cleaning operation” in Sanjaray village. I was told that the only condition for me to go was to not send pictures until the end of the operation.