For twenty years, Venezuela was a refuge for Colombia’s Marxist guerrillas, a place where they could hide out from the military, run criminal economies, and carry out political work with impunity thanks to their friendly relationship with the government of President Hugo Chávez. But today, it is so much more.
Guerrillas such as the ELN have spread deep into Venezuelan territory, they are filling their ranks with recruits, taking control of communities, and interfering in politics. Today, they are binational guerrilla groups.
The product of five years of fieldwork along the Colombia-Venezuela border and beyond, this investigation reveals the Venezuelan operations of Colombia’s guerrillas and explores the far-reaching implications for both countries of their evolution into Colombo-Venezuelan groups.
Colombian rebels had long been welcome in Venezuela but now, they have arrived in force, bringing conflict with them.
Colombian guerrillas evolved from seeing Venezuela as a safe place to retreat to seeing it as a full-blown expansion of their criminal activities.
One of the ELN’s most infamous leader, alias Pablito, has been crucial in helping the Colombian guerrilla group move its operations to Venezuela.
Colombia’s region of Catatumbo and Venezuela’s state of Zulia jointly form one of the world’s busiest cocaine corridors.
While now comfortably established in two countries, the ELN have a chance to return to the negotiating table, according to President Gustavo Petro’s “Total Peace” plan.