During the last months, the conflicts surrounding the Imataca Forest Reserve in the South-Eastern state of Bolívar has been at the center of debate on environment and development in Venezuela. Despite of its outstanding role in national politics, this conflict has so far received little attention on an international scale. However, the range of different actors, the economic, social and political ... [Show full abstract] stakes as well as the ecosystems involved seem to make this not just another local story about tropical forest destruction, but a paradigmatic case that merits deeper analysis. The redefinition of Venezuelan socio-economic strategies is not just about the 3 million ha of a certain forest reserve. Other parts of the Guyana shield within and outside of Venezuela have recently come under heavy pressure through new logging and mining concessions as well, in particular in Surinam and bordering Guyana. Considering that the economic options of smaller and institutionally weaker states may be much more restricted than those of an OPEC state with the largest oil reserves in the Western hemisphere, the changes in Venezuelan policy may well put additional pressure on adjacent forests and their inhabitants. In this context, the purpose of this short briefing paper is twofold: firstly, to provide some basic information about the main lines of the conflict and bring it to the attention of a wider public; and, secondly, to briefly inform about our research underway thereby hoping to facilitate communication with other scientists concerned about the latest developments in South American forest policies.