Although both governments have downplayed the presence of Colombia rebel groups in Venezuela, a report from El Colombiano details how FARC and ELN guerrillas use the neighboring country as a base to carry out attacks within Colombia.
According to an investigation by El Colombiano, both the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) conduct attacks in the Colombian province of Arauca, then slip across the border into Venezuela.
Arauca residents told the newspaper that the rebels carry out kidnappings and extortion in the region, and are not pursued by authorities of either country.
El Colombiano cites Colombian military intelligence sources as saying that both the FARC and ELN have camps across the border in the Venezuelan municipality of Elorza, where guerrilla leaders such as the ELN’s Giraldo Quinchia, alias "Pablito," and the FARC’s Noe Suarez Rojas, alias "Grannobles," are known to operate.
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In April last year Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that Venezuela was free of FARC units, saying, "We are certain those encampments no longer exist.”
The comment was likely designed less to reflect reality than to shore up diplomatic ties with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, which had been fraught before Santos took office in August 2010. Since then he has often praised the Chavez government for aiding in the fight against the rebels by capturing guerrillas and deporting them to Colombia.
In August Colombian Admiral Edgar Cely, then serving as commander of Colombia's military, told Caracol that FARC and ELN guerrillas were still hiding in Venezuela, using the country to lie low and organize attacks.
As InSight Crime has reported, three of the FARC's seven "blocs” use Venezuela as a major asset for weapons, recuperation and medical support, with commander-in-chief Rodrigo Londoño, alias "Timochenko," and his second-in-command, Luciano Marin Arango, alias "Ivan Marquez," thought to be hiding out there. The level of official collusion with the rebel group in Venezuela remains unclear, however.