HomeNewsAnalysisPro-Government Guerrillas Mix Political, Criminal Interests in Venezuela
ANALYSIS

Pro-Government Guerrillas Mix Political, Criminal Interests in Venezuela

CONTRABAND / 17 JUN 2019 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

Pro-government guerrillas in Venezuela have begun training civilians in armed combat, showing the symbiotic relationship between embattled President Nicolás Maduro and the irregular armed groups that rely on him to protect their criminal interests.

The news website Infobae recently published photos showing members of the Patriotic Forces for National Liberation (Fuerzas Patrióticas de Liberación Nacional -- FPLN) leading civilians in military training exercises in the Venezuelan state of Apure along the border with Colombia. InSight Crime was also provided similar photos.

The training is ostensibly to prepare residents for an invasion by US forces. The images also reveal the participation of local officials, including National Constituent Assembly delegate Orlando Zambrano and Mayor Ofelia Padrón.

SEE ALSO:  Bolivarian Liberation Forces Profile

The FPLN is the most recent incarnation of the Bolivarian Liberation Forces (Fuerzas Bolivarianas de Liberación -- FBL), a guerrilla group that gained notoriety in 1992 for attacks on allegedly corrupt politicians. The organization enjoyed state support under the presidency of Hugo Chávez, allowing it to scale back military operations and attain legitimacy through its political front, the Bolívar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (Corriente Revolucionaria Bolívar y Zamora -- CRBZ).

Following division within the group, leader Jerónimo Paz renamed his faction the FPLN in an effort to distance it from the group’s criminal past. But as pressure increases on the Maduro government, the organization has reverted to using guerrilla tactics and criminal financing to defend the regime.

InSight Crime Analysis

The FPLN’s activities in Apure demonstrate how criminal and political interests intertwine within the armed groups rallying to Maduro’s defense.

Farmers in Apure told InSight Crime that the FPLN effectively controls the cattle business in several municipalities of the state, extorting local ranchers. The group is also involved in the smuggling of cattle and gasoline from Venezuela to Colombia.

Community leaders in Páez municipality confirmed that this criminal network transports contraband fuel across the border by river, paying tolls to the military. Until the closure of the Colombia-Venezuela border, the group also charged large sums of money to guarantee safe passage to those crossing the José Antonio Páez International Bridge.

SEE ALSO: The Armed Groups Propping up Venezuela’s Government

The FPLN’s control of these border economies is facilitated by its close cooperation with security forces and penetration of state institutions. In an interview with InSight Crime, local journalist Sebastiana Barráez affirmed that through the CRBZ, the FPLN commands the region’s communal platforms and directly controls mayors’ offices around the state.

The organization’s presence in Apure has strengthened since former Vice President Ramón Carrizales assumed the state governorship in 2011. Carrizales faces US sanctions for repressing protesters, corruption and blocking humanitarian aid to Venezuela. He also has close ties to the FPLN, according to Barráez.

The FPLN’s training of civilians provides further evidence of how the embattled Maduro government relies on irregular armed groups willing to defend an administration that protects their criminal economies.

This landscape, however, is fractured and volatile. The FPLN has long contested the Apure territory with Colombian guerrilla groups, notably the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN), which has gained strength in Venezuela.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

PRISONS / 8 AUG 2011

The new Venezuelan Minister of Correctional Services, Iris Varela, has put a hold on the admission of inmates into prisons…

VENEZUELA / 23 OCT 2015

More than 100 Venezuelan policemen have been killed in the metropolitan area of Caracas so far this year, leading to…

INFOGRAPHICS / 11 OCT 2013

In the first half of this year we ran a series describing Venezuela's comprehensive efforts at citizen security reform. We…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.

THE ORGANIZATION

Combating Environmental Crime in Colombia

15 JUN 2021

InSight Crime presented findings from an investigation into the main criminal activities fueling environmental destruction in Colombia.