Photo: Venezuela al Día retrieved
The Colombian guerrillas don’t want to be allies of the Venezuelan regime anymore: they want to boss them around. They demand obedience and submission. If they don’t get it, anyone else who dares defy them from the Venezuelan territory is prone to get the treatment mandated by the laws of insurgent groups.
These laws, by the way, were praised back in the day by Hugo Chávez, who said in February 2008: “The insurgent forces of Colombia have another State, they have their own set of laws, which is applied and enforced. It’s a reality that can’t be ignored any longer.” In that same speech, the leader of the 1992 coup claimed that “Venezuela doesn’t border with Colombia but with the FARC.”
But Venezuela doesn’t just border with the FARC anymore, it’s actually become the main stage where Colombian guerrillas prowl, engaging in all sorts of businesses—legal or not—and sharing tasks with the government and the Armed Forces. The Venezuelan government protects them, but most importantly: they seem to fear them as well.
Venezuela doesn’t border with Colombia but with the FARC.
The presence of Colombian paramilitary groups in increasingly broader territories in Venezuela is no secret, because they don’t hide or deny their actions and their growing power: quite the contrary, everyone sees them controlling and managing resources in towns and cities, and openly patrolling roads. When citizens go to military checkpoints to denounce that they’ve been robbed on the roads, soldiers merely shrug and say “it’s the guerrilla…”, a clear evidence of how powerless they are about it.
In a recent interview made by journalist Javier Ignacio Mayorca with Javier Tarazona—spokesman for Fundación Redes, an institution that has documented the operation of Colombian paramilitary groups in Venezuela—Tarazona confirmed the number of Municipalities in Táchira under the ELN control and the proven existence of agents of regional and national power that allow these groups to distribute CLAP food in the area.
“You can see it—said Tarazona, referring to the brazenness of this cooperation—we’ve collected testimonies of neighbors that tell us that the guerrilla arrives with government authorities in official vehicles. There seems to be a bilateral agreement between the guerrilla and Maduro’s government for this distribution, because it’s fairly frequent. Every 22 days, they hand out CLAP boxes with the group’s propaganda. That’s evidence that they’re working together.”
In that same interview, Tarazona talks about the guerrilla’s hegemony in the mining sector where “the government’s lost control of the mines due to criminal gangs that developed in Bolívar. Maduro’s regime sees the guerrilla as a way to quell the pranes and gain joint control.”
Tarazona confirmed the number of Municipalities in Táchira under the ELN control.
But the most recent events indicate that the guerrilla’s no longer satisfied with exercising a joint control: They want everything. And the evidence is that, after the National Guard arrested Colombian citizen Luis Felipe Ortega Bernal last Sunday, AKA Garganta, famous leader of the National Liberation Army (ELN), who according to the Colombian Foreign Ministry was found with Venezuelan ID cards and, of course, his carnet de la patria, the ELN ambushed the Guard in Puerto Ayacucho, Amazonas, killing three guards and injuring ten. Instead of retaliating as would be expected, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López merely scolded them as if they were babies having a tantrum.
Three hours after the incident, Padrino López called it an attack of “armed paramilitary groups seeking to enter our territory,” a blatant lie. They’re not mere paramilitaries: they’re guerrilla men. They don’t seek to enter, they’re already the bosses of all kinds of illegal trafficking operations in Venezuela. “We don’t want those groups in Venezuela. For now we say to them: leave Venezuela, please,” added Padrino López, with manners that stand in stark contrast with the way he deals with opposition lawmakers in the Hemiciclo, or with students that protest in the streets with cardboard shields. “Leave Venezuela, please…”
In view of such considerations, journalist Sebastiana Barráez, specialist in military sources, wrote the following thread on Twitter: “Guerrilla and paramilitaries, just like Colombian and Brazilian criminal gangs, took over our territory while the FANB remains silent. Weeks ago, the ELN murdered two Venezuelan Army officers in El Catatumbo, Zulia. Now they murdered three GNB in Amazonas. Back then, the FANB and the High Command remained quiet. The Army merely posted a mediocre tear about the dead officers on the web. […] When Rangel Silva was Defense Minister, the ELN murdered two Army officers in Baritalia del Táchira. And it was hushed. Never before have the Venezuelan Armed Forces shown such submission to the guerrilla in view of the murder of their brothers in arms. The same has happened with the paramilitaries. But after these incidents, the FANB has taken on an attitude of cowardice. Imprisoned and tortured military officers. Officers murdered by criminals. Officers murdered by the guerrilla and the paramilitaries. Meanwhile, the Military High Command babbles about anti-imperialism and revolution, because there isn’t even enough food in the barracks.”
Never before have the Venezuelan Armed Forces shown such submission to the guerrilla in view of the murder of their brothers in arms.
Two days after the massacre at Puerto Ayacucho, Maduro had linked opposition leaders Andrés Velásquez and Américo De Grazia, both from La Causa R, with “gold mafias,” and accused them of being financed by those who engage in illegal exploitation in the Orinoco Mining Arc. On a mandatory broadcast, Maduro said that “lawmakers Velásquez and De Grazia should disappear and vanish.” But he didn’t say please.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.