HomeNewsBriefCan Venezuela's Violence Be Blamed on Colombian Criminals?
BRIEF

Can Venezuela's Violence Be Blamed on Colombian Criminals?

COLOMBIA / 20 JAN 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has blamed the country's violence and drug trafficking on criminals from Colombia, an analysis that fails to take into account the growth of domestic organized crime, and the corruption that has facilitated it.

"Drug trafficking comes from Colombia. Unfortunately, our sister Colombia has been facing these problems for decades, but Venezuela does not produce drugs," Maduro said during a government meeting. He went on to state that Venezuelan border states such as Tachira, Zulia and Apure "suffer" particularly from violence generated by Colombian criminals, reported EFE.

Opposition officials in Venezuela responded critically to the president's claims. Congressman Walter Marquez called it "illogical" to suggest Colombia was responsible for Venezuela's violence, and that the statement aimed to "cover up 14 years in which the government has been the generator of violence," reported Caracol Radio.

Maduro's pronouncements came in the wake of the murder of a beauty queen that has placed Venezuela's rampant violence in the spotlight.

InSight Crime Analysis

The attribution of Venezuela's security problems to Colombian criminals is fanciful given the country's outlandish homicide rate, which one NGO estimated to be at a record 79 per 100,000 last year, far higher than neighbouring Colombia.

It is true that Colombian criminal groups have long operated near and across the Venezuelan border and recruited locals into their organizations, with three alleged Venezuelan members of the Urabeños arrested there in June 2013. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is also known to be active across the border, as well as the smaller and National Liberation Army (ELN). In October 2013, Venezuelan authorities found 17 drug laboratories near the border.

However, as drug trafficking has increased through the country, Venezuela has developed significant organized crime networks of its own. Cells of corrupt security force members known as the "Cartel of the Suns" have long facilitated cocaine trafficking through the country. They have evolved to become buyers and sellers in their own right, as evidenced by National Guard involvement in a massive cocaine shipment busted in France.

SEE ALSO: Cartel of the Suns Profile

Also unmentioned by Maduro were the Bolivarian Liberation Forces (FBL), a guerrilla group promoted by former President Hugo Chavez that has grown to fund itself through kidnapping and extortion.

Organized crime is also far from the only factor contributing to Venezuela's security problems, with violence perpetrated by gun-toting militias in urban centers like Caracas. Other major contributors include: a leadership unable to grapple with the country's economic problems, gun proliferation and a weak judicial system.

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