HomeNewsAnalysis‘La Línea’ Gang Takes Deadly Hold on Colombia-Venezuela Border
ANALYSIS

'La Línea' Gang Takes Deadly Hold on Colombia-Venezuela Border

COLOMBIA / 21 MAY 2019 BY ANGELA OLAYA EN

A violent criminal gang known as "La Línea" has triggered several deadly shootouts in battles with other armed groups seeking to control remote trails near the main border crossing between Colombia and Venezuela.

Authorities have recorded one shooting per week this month in the area surrounding the Simón Bolívar International Bridge, which connects Villa del Rosario in Colombia with San Antonio de Táchira in Venezuela.

The latest confrontation happened at the Los Mangos trail, leaving one person dead and another injured. Prior to that shooting, a Venezuelan man was killed in a gunfight in a trail close to the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge near the Colombian border city of Cucutá. This was close to the settlement of the indigenous Yukpa community, a spokesman for Cucutá's mayor said, adding that the mayor had called on national security officials to have the military patrol the remote trails.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profile

Colombian authorities said that the deadly firefights occurred between the La Línea gang and a paramilitary force made up of former Venezuelan soldiers, which are both vying for control of trafficking routes and the extortion of migrants moving along the trails.

InSight Crime Analysis

La Línea has managed to gain control of most of the trails near the closed Simón Bolívar International Bridge, giving the criminal gang access to a wealth of illicit economies.

The gang, with origins in Venezuela, gained its foothold in the border region by taxing contraband and extorting migrants moving along the pathways. However, it soon moved into the border city of Cucutá with local drug sales and prostitution rings in central points such as Las Mercedes park and the transportation terminal.

La Línea's center of operations seems to be the squatter settlement of La Isla on Cucuta's outskirts, according to an InSight Crime investigation. This neighborhood gives them direct access to several informal trails and crossing points on the Táchira River, as well as a path to Venezuela.

The group has shown itself quick to respond to territorial challenges with violence.

      SEE ALSO: Trails Along Venezuela-Colombia Border Are Criminal Enclaves

Since the mass influx of desperate Venezuelan migrants began in this region, gangs have operated under the premise that whoever controls the international crossings controls everything. And the border’s official closure by Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro in February turned into the perfect opportunity for groups like La Línea to gain strength.

At the beginning of 2019, La Línea had a dispute with Los Rastrojos, which led to several homicides in Cucutá and Puerto Santander. La Línea appears to have come out on top.

The group also forged an alliance with La Frontera gang to seize control of crossings from the Bota de Caucho group, a paramilitary force of former Venezuelan soldiers that is based on the Venezuelan side of the border in a river shantytown known as “Pequeñas Barinas."

With the closure of the official bridge crossing, the migrating population will continue to be at the mercy of groups like La Línea, which will possibly keep growing in size and resources.

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

CONTRABAND / 7 MAR 2019

A recent investigation into the theft and smuggling of bronze in Venezuela has revealed the existence of an organized crime…

SECURITY POLICY / 15 JUL 2016

Venezuela's government has touted the achievements of a militarized security operation that began a year ago, but many experts say…

COLOMBIA / 28 SEP 2018

Authorities in the United States dismantled a transnational drug trafficking organization that utilized the US Postal Service to purchase and…

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.