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Venezuelan President: Soldiers Used Excessive Force in Mining Crackdown


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says soldiers used excessive force in a clash with miners that killed six people last week.

Mr. Chavez said autopsies of the victims show an abusive use of weapons and that soldiers involved will be punished. On Tuesday, he promised a full investigation into the killings.

Two Brazilians and four Venezuelans were killed September 22 in Bolivar state after army troops descended on the area to crackdown on an illegal mining operation.

Some miners say soldiers fired on them from their helicopter. Venezuela's Defense Minister, Raul Baduel, denies this. Villagers also claim soldiers seized 10 kilograms of gold during the siege.

The violence sparked protests in the town of La Paragua, close to the scene of the killings. Protesters also torched the mayor's house in the municipal capital, Maripa.

The killings underscore the tensions surrounding the government's fight to stop widespread illegal mining in Venezuela.