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

VENEZUELA / 3 OCT 2014

After a young star of Venezuela's ruling socialist party was murdered in his home, the government has sought to blame…

DIEGO RASTROJO / 8 AUG 2012

Venezuela extradited the military leader of drug trafficking organization the Rastrojos to his native Colombia, though it is not yet…

ELITES AND CRIME / 31 JUL 2020

Recent incursions by the ELN to set up illegal mining facilities along the Caura River in central Venezuela are being…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…