Venezuelan police have killed a former Colombian paramilitary accused of committing murders and trafficking drugs along the Venezuela-Colombia frontier, a development which the Maduro government could use to further justify keeping the border closed.
Walter Raúl Silva, alias "Carevieja," was killed by Venezuelan investigative police and military intelligence officials on January 16, reported El Tiempo. He was reportedly killed in the border state of Táchira.
Via Twitter, the governor of Táchira called Carevieja the leader of a local faction of Colombian criminal group the Rastrojos. Both the Rastrojos, rival criminal group the Urabeños, and a dissident faction of the Urabeños are active running criminal activities like contraband and drug trafficking along the Colombia-Venezuela frontier.
Carevieja was wanted on extortion, homicide, and drug trafficking charges, the governor of Táchira tweeted. According to El Tiempo, Carevieja led a group of 48 armed men, and had managed to take over most of the territory once controlled by a rival commander in the Urabeños.
Walter Raúl Silva, alias "Carevieja"
InSight Crime Analysis
It is significant that Carevieja was killed in an operation led by Venezuela's investigative police. As InSight Crime learned during field research in the Colombia-Venezuela border region in late 2015, many of the Colombian criminal gangs feel safer on the Venezuelan side of the border. This is likely thanks to their contacts within Venezuela's notoriously corrupt Bolivarian National Guard.
Venezuela closed its border with Colombia in August 2015, due to concerns over contraband and violent criminal groups. While there have been exceptions for some types of border crossings, President Nicolás Maduro said in Congress last week that the frontier would remain closed indefinitely until rule of law was established in the region. Maduro blamed "a thousand devils" coming in from Colombia, as well as Venezuelan "paramilitaries," for violence and crime in the area, the AFP reported.
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The ongoing presence of criminal groups, like the one led by Carevieja, may yet be used as further justification for keeping the Venezuela-Colombia border closed. It is worth asking whether doing so will help Colombia and Venezuela better address the problem of criminality along the frontier, as it is doubtful that the closed border will do much to affect contraband over the long term. By the time InSight Crime finished field research in the area in late 2015, the Venezuela-Colombia contraband trade appeared to have moved around closed border crossings. Two of the main crossing points for contraband -- the bridge between the Colombian city of Cucuta and the Venezuela city of San Cristobal, and another bridge in the Colombian municipality of Puerto Santander -- do appear to have been affected by the border closure. However, smugglers have now moved to more remote crossing points to continue their smuggling operations.