HomeNewsBriefELN Kidnapping on Venezuela Border Could Impact Peace Talks
BRIEF

ELN Kidnapping on Venezuela Border Could Impact Peace Talks

COLOMBIA / 17 AUG 2016 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

A Colombian guerrilla group has reportedly kidnapped nearly a dozen rice farmers and is holding them hostage in Venezuela, a sign of increasing militant activity along the border that could have implications for an ongoing peace process.  

According to local media accounts, the National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional - ELN) has kidnapped 11 rice farmers who had been working in the department of Arauca. The farmers are reportedly being held by the ELN across the border in Venezuela, where the guerrillas are demanding large ransoms in exchange for their release.

Co-workers of the kidnapped farmers said that the ELN had recently raised the amount of extortion payments they demanded from around 70,000 pesos (about $24) per hectare to 300,000 pesos (roughly $100) per hectare for local residents of Arauca, and as much as 600,000 pesos (about $200) per hectare for those who are not from the area.

The sources, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals from the ELN, said that the kidnapped farmers did not live in Arauca, but they worked there. They were reportedly taken by the guerrilla group when they traveled over the border into Venezuela in order to make extortion payments.

It remains unclear whether all eleven victims were kidnapped at once or at separate times. Venezuelan authorities have not publicly commented on the issue, and Colombian officials have remained similarly quiet.

Arauca Gov. Ricardo Alvarado Bestene convened an emergency security meeting which resulted in the release of a statement on August 16 that promised that "authorities will improve their military strategies to guarantee security and the right to work." Alvarado also called for the release of anyone who may have been kidnapped and condemned such actions.

InSight Crime Analysis

The ELN has long maintained a presence in Arauca and the neighboring Venezuelan state of Apure. But the group's use of Venezuelan territory as a refuge and base of operations appears to have grown in recent years. During field research conducted in 2011, InSight Crime learned that it was common knowledge in Arauca that the ELN ran an "office" to collect extortion payments just across the border in Apure.

More recently, a prominent Venezuelan professor, Javier Tarazona, has warned that the ELN appears to be ramping up propaganda and recruitment efforts in rural Venezuelan communities near the Colombian border. The professor links this development to political corruption and economic distress in these areas, which he says encourage public officials and struggling residents to cooperate with armed groups.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the ELN

Tarazona also indicated that ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the country's two main guerrilla groups -- the ELN and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) -- could play a role in the apparent increase in militant activities in Venezuela. Despite significant challenges going forward, the peace talks with the FARC appear to be nearing a final agreement, while negotiations with the ELN are on much less certain footing. The rebel group's refusal to stop kidnapping people as a precondition to further talks is one issue blocking progress. 

Guerrillas who want to continue illegal activities that they would be expected to give up in the event of a peace agreement may be relocating their operations to areas where Colombian authorities lack jurisdiction. Evidence of this dynamic has also been observed recently in areas of Ecuador near that country's eastern border with Colombia.

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

ELITES AND CRIME / 10 FEB 2017

An open letter from US senators to President Donald Trump implies that alleged criminal activities by the vice president of Venezuela…

COLOMBIA / 28 SEP 2021

The recent dismantling of a migrant smuggling ring in Colombia has revealed the routes, corruption networks and modus operandi used…

COLOMBIA / 24 JUN 2013

Criminal groups in Colombia are responsible for the distribution of millions of illegal cigarettes tied to Paraguay President-elect Horacio Cartes,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Guatemala Social Insecurity Investigation Makes Front Page News

10 DEC 2021

InSight Crime’s latest investigation into a case of corruption within Guatemala's social security agency linked to the deaths of patients with kidney disease made waves in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…