HomeNewsBriefMass Graves Found on Venezuela-Colombia Border
BRIEF

Mass Graves Found on Venezuela-Colombia Border

COLOMBIA / 7 MAY 2015 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

Authorities in Venezuela have discovered two clandestine graves near the border with Colombia, raising the possibility that violence between warring criminal groups may be claiming even more victims than reported. 

During the first week of May, Venezuelan authorities discovered two hidden graves containing a total of 12 bodies in the western state of Tachira, less than four kilometers from the Colombian border, reported El Tiempo. The first grave, which was found on May 4, contained victims whose hands were tied with barbed wire and whose bodies showed signs of torture. Tachira Governor Jose Gregorio Vielma Mora stated that the killings had been perpetrated by rival criminal groups fighting for control of the border region, reported El Nacional

An alleged paramilitary member who was recently detained told authorities about the homicides and gave them information that helped locate the bodies, according to Noticias al Dia. The detainee reportedly claimed that at least three of the victims were members of a paramilitary group, but authorities have yet to release information on their identities.

Governor Vielma Mora stated that authorities believe the killings took place in December 2014 and January 2015, reported El Nacional.

InSight Crime Analysis

Although the authors and motives behind the clandestine graves have yet to be confirmed, Colombia's two main neo-paramilitary groups (also known as BACRIM from the Spanish for "criminal bands") -- the Rastrojos and the Urabeños -- operate in the Venezuela-Colombia border region. This territory is prized by criminal groups for its drug trafficking routes and for the opportunity to control the heavy flow of contraband goods across the border. Criminal groups are also involved in kidnapping and extortion in this area, and often flee to Venezuela to hide from Colombian authorities. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of BACRIM

The frontier region was previously a Rastrojos stronghold, but as this criminal group has declined, the Urabeños have waged a bloody battle for control of the territory. Although the Urabeños have largely taken over the criminal enterprises in the border region, fighting between these groups persists, and in November 2014 the Urabeños allegedly massacred eight members of the Rastrojos in the Venezuelan border state of Zuila. 

The recently discovered bodies are not the first sign that criminal groups are disposing of their victims in clandestine graves along the border. In March 2014, five individuals were forced to dig their own graves before being killed by alleged Urabeños operatives. The use of hidden graves -- as well as the large number of disappearances in the Colombian border city of Cucuta -- suggests levels of violence in this area may be even higher than reported. 

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

COLOMBIA / 11 APR 2016

Drug trafficking organizations in Colombia and Mexico are reportedly using the criminal franchise model to traffic cocaine into Europe, replicating…

COLOMBIA / 7 OCT 2013

Four passengers have died after a US anti-drug plane crashed while monitoring one of Colombia's main drug trafficking…

COLOMBIA / 12 JUL 2013

A team of Colombian police officers has gone undercover to catch corrupt colleagues, the latest in a series of…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.