HomeNewsBriefAre Colombia Paramilitaries to Blame for Venezuela Civil Unrest?
BRIEF

Are Colombia Paramilitaries to Blame for Venezuela Civil Unrest?

COLOMBIA / 21 FEB 2014 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro has blamed civil unrest in the border region on Colombian paramilitaries and drug traffickers, a claim that makes little sense even though he is correct such groups have established a strong presence in the area.

As opposition protesters continue to clash with security forces and government supporters around the country, the Venezuelan government dispatched paratroopers to restore order in the border town of San Cristobal, where the confrontations have been among the fiercest.

The minister of the interior, Miguel Rodriguez, told media the deployment was because the government had detected "Colombian personnel that have come to carry out missions for paramilitaries."

President Nicolas Maduro also spoke to blame trouble in the town and the surrounding state of Tachira on a "fascist attack," in which the local opposition mayor was colluding with Colombian paramilitaries and criminal groups, reported El Colombiano.

"They want to bring the violence of drug traffickers and paramilitaries here," said Maduro.

The San Cristobal mayor, Daniel Ceballos, denied the protests were influence by armed groups and blamed the government for their presence, reported Panorama.

"The only ones who have control of the border is the government, and if paramilitaries have entered [the country] then they are responsible," he said.

InSight Crime Analysis

Maduro is correct that the narco-paramilitary groups labelled by the Colombian government as the BACRIM (from the Spanish abbreviation of "criminal bands") are present in San Cristobal and Tachira.

The Colombia-Venezuela border is a hotbed of criminal activity, much of it managed by the BACRIM. First the Rastrojos, and more recently the Urabeños have long controlled drug routes through Venezuela, as well as other lucrative criminal activities such as gasoline smuggling. There have been indications that not only do they maintain a presence in the country, but also that they may be recruiting Venezuelans.

SEE ALSO: BACRIM in Venezuela Profile

However, the BACRIM have little interest in politics beyond where it intersects with their own abilities to make criminal profits. They have no ideological quarrel with the Venezuelan state, which may be considered friend or enemy depending on what corrupt contacts the group manages.

The presence of the BACRIM in the region also pales in comparison to that of the guerrilla groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). Both have operated with the tacit permission and sometimes secret support of the Venezuelan government, however they too are unlikely to have any inclination to wade into domestic politics, on either side of the confrontation.

A far more likely explanation of the militarization of the region is that is not only a hotbed of protest but also a stronghold of the political opposition.

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

COLOMBIA / 22 JAN 2014

Human Rights Watch's annual global report underscores how impunity for both criminal groups and corrupt and abusive state institutions is…

COLOMBIA / 25 NOV 2011

After becoming a key witness for the DEA, one of the former members of the Cali Cartel is reportedly back…

EX-FARC MAFIA / 3 OCT 2012

Venezuela is a vital base of operations for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and three of its seven blocs…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

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.