Venezuela has officially inaugurated a civil-military Joint Task Force to combat smuggling and drug trafficking along the Colombian border, although it remains unclear how effective such a scheme can be given the rampant corruption there within the security forces.
In an attempt to tackle criminal activity along the border, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro earlier this month created the Civil-Military Border Force, which will be active in the border states of Zulia, Tachira, Apure and Amazonas.
The newly appointed executive secretary of the force, Pedro Gonzalez Salmeron, said, “it will have the task of coordinating economic, social, political, military, police, and communication activities along the 2,200 kilometer border of Venezuela and Colombia,” reported El Universal.
The first deployment was seen in Zulia State on August 29, with a 470-person force, assembled from the armed forces, National Guard, National Police, Bolivarian National Militia, CICPC investigative body, and SEBIN intelligence agency.
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Corruption goes right to the top of Venezuela’s security forces with the so-called “Cartel of the Suns” — a group of senior officers with deep ties to the drug trade which has been a key element in the contraband smuggling and drug trafficking which flourishes in the border states.
Corrupt elements within the armed forces, with interests in smuggling and drug trafficking, have benefitted for years from a relationship with Colombia’s left-wing guerrillas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), and groups known as BACRIM (from the Spanish acronym for “criminal bands”), which control contraband smuggling along the border and regularly operate from inside Venezuelan territory. The corrupt elements of the security forces benefit from cocaine and marijuana smuggling from Colombia and subsidized Venezuelan petrol travelling in the other direction, among other illegal activities.
This raises the question of what sort of impact the new force is likely to have, as many of the same corrupt security elements will be charged with guarding the border, so significant gains in the fight against criminality and drug trafficking remain unlikely.
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