"A seemingly endless black hole is at our feet," writes Maria Isabel Sanchez, AFP bureau chief in Caracas.
"We have made the decision to descend into the darkness, but the tension is palpable. One by one, we enter the abyss -- me, video journalist Jesus Olarte and photographer Juan Barreto. This is what we have spent days waiting for. We go down slowly, without looking down, only the light from the headlamp of our guide illuminating the foreboding darkness. We are finally inside one of Venezuela’s myriad of illegal gold mines, a world where violence, impunity and fear reign."