HomeNewsBriefVenezuela Protests Shine Light on Leftist Militias with Criminal Potential
BRIEF

Venezuela Protests Shine Light on Leftist Militias with Criminal Potential

COLECTIVOS / 13 MAR 2014 BY MIMI YAGOUB AND JAMES BARGENT EN

Government-backed militias have been accused of murdering protesters during recent civil unrest in Venezuela, turning the spotlight on armed groups that could become even more dangerous were they to break ties with authorities.

Since the outbreak of anti-government protests in February, opposition figures have accused the Maduro administration of using leftist urban militias known as "colectivos" (collectives) to violently suppress protest.

"The colectivos are paramilitary groups armed by the government and protected by officials in uniform," opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez told Reuters.

The militias have staged numerous counter-demonstrations and are widely believed to be behind attacks on protesters by armed men on motorbikes that have left several protesters dead.

In response to the violence, President Nicolas Maduro disowned the militias, saying "We don't accept violent groups in the Chavista camp, and the revolution," reported Infobae.

InSight Crime Analysis

The relationship between the Venezuelan government and the colectivos is complex, and the alliance between them is by no means guaranteed.

The militias operate in impoverished urban areas, where in many cases they have become the de facto authorities. They exert tight control over daily life and provide security in the crime-ridden slums, acting as "police, prosecutors and judges."

They also serve an important function for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela's electoral machine, especially when it comes to getting the vote out in colectivo territories, which are bastions of government support. According to some experts, the colectivos may even be financed by diverted communal project funds, and could be receiving arms from the Venezuelan Armed Forces.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Venezuela

However, while they have been acting against government opponents in recent protests, the colectivos are independent and sometimes even critical of the socialist party. With Maduro distancing himself from their actions, and the future of the Chavista political project ever more tenuous, it raises the possibility of at least some of these groups severing ties with the government.

Should this happen, the militias could easily turn to lucrative criminal activities for financing. According to a 2011 report by the International Crisis Group (pdf), some of the colectivos may already be involved in drug trafficking, car theft and other organized crime, and they have the arms and the contacts -- especially with Colombian rebel groups -- to step up their involvement in the underworld.

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 / 19 JAN 2021

A new alliance between two of Colombia's main criminal groups is seeking to contest the ELN's control of lucrative criminal…

GENDER AND CRIME / 5 MAY 2021

As sex trafficking has soared in Venezuela, seemingly legitimate modeling agencies are repeatedly being linked to cases of human trafficking,…

ELITES AND CRIME / 7 SEP 2021

The visual is an arresting one. A Venezuelan army sergeant, his face swollen and his nose bleeding from a beating,…

About InSight Crime

WORK WITH US

Open Position: Full Stack WordPress Developer

28 NOV 2022

As Full Stack WordPress Developer You Will: Work collaboratively with other developers and designers to maintain and improve organizational standards.Demonstrate a high level of attention to detail, and implement best…

THE ORGANIZATION

Join Us This #GivingTuesday in Exposing Organized Crime

24 NOV 2022

For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…

THE ORGANIZATION

Like Crime, Our Coverage Knows No Borders

18 NOV 2022

The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…

THE ORGANIZATION

Using Data to Expose Crime

11 NOV 2022

Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime ON AIR

4 NOV 2022

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley was interviewed for the podcast The Rosenberg Case: A Tale of Murder, Corruption, and Conspiracy in Guatemala, which explores the potential involvement of then president, Álvaro Colom,…