President Nicolás Maduro’s recent call for armed civilian groups to “resist and stand firm” amid Venezuela’s ever-worsening social crisis, confirms his reliance on these criminal organizations to help the regime stay in power.
Amidst rolling power blackouts, which suspended critical services throughout the country causing raids and vandalism from March 7 onward, Maduro requested the support of the “colectivos” (armed civilian groups acting as paramilitaries) and other communal organizations created by his government, through a radio and TV broadcast.
“I call on all the social power, on all the popular power in Venezuela… I call on the ‘colectivos’, on everyone. The hour of active resistance has arrived,” declared the president, whose rule has been deemed llegitimate by more than 60 countries.
The “colectivos” appeared during the administration of Hugo Chávez with the purpose of defending the Bolivarian Revolution and have since been supported by the government. Armed and traveling in motorcycles, the ‘colectivos’ are used by the regime to restrain protests against the government as well as to violently bring “order” through raids, such as those seen in increasing number in Venezuela of late.
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Maduro’s call once again evidences the ties his government has with paramilitary groups dedicated to criminal activities such as kidnapping, extortion, drug trafficking and other offenses.
The “colectivos” have been allowed to act with impunity in exchange for their support in combating anti-government protests as well as opponent intimidation and persecution, aiming to safeguard the unstable Venezuelan regime.
This national blackout has been a backdrop for yet another round of public protests, once again interrupted by the “colectivos”. A video released on Twitter recorded these armed groups in action on March 10 in the Caracas municipality of Chacao, dispersing people expressing their anger at the power cuts. The groups of armed men were seen leaving from the Transport Ministry.
Last February, Insight Crime alerted about the existence of the “Border Security Colectivo.” It operates in the state of Táchira and its members are dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN). The group acted in coordination with state security forces to block the entrance of international humanitarian aid, last February 23.
While the social and political agitation increases in Venezuela, the “colectivos” appear empowered as a strike force and armed wing of the Chavista revolution, with permission to perpetrate brutalities and further their criminal activities.
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