Reports of landmines being used in Venezuela's Apure state raise the worrying possibility that a recurrent and deadly guerrilla tactic in Colombia is being increasingly exported to its neighbor.
In early April, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro denounced the planting of landmines, allegedly by dissident groups formerly belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), and asked for support from the United Nations (UN) in destroying them.
“Colombian armed groups have brought the practice of anti-personnel mines...to Venezuela. We have lost several Venezuelan soldiers to the anti-personnel mines […] they have brought their dirty, repugnant methods, from the Colombian war to Venezuela,” said Maduro in a televised address.
On April 15, Venezuela's foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, wrote on Twitter that UN experts were coordinating with armed forces to help with the demining process.
These reports coincided with fighting in Apure that broke out in March between Venezuelan soldiers and dissidents from the former FARC 10th Front, reportedly aligned with Miguel Botache Santillana, alias "Gentil Duarte." This fighting has led to a serious humanitarian crisis along the border.
Earlier this month, Venezuela’s Ministry of Defense revealed that two soldiers died and nine soldiers were injured as a result of a landmine explosion in Apure. And Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said in a statement that 16 landmines had been deactivated since the fighting broke out. The Venezuelan army has also deployed at least one minesweeper to the border.
InSight Crime Analysis
In Colombia, guerrilla groups have largely been responsible for using landmines as a weapon of war. But in recent years, the practice has spread to other criminal groups, who have used this tactic to protect routes, illicit crops, laboratories and territories that are key to their illegal economies.
And while Venezuela has been an important area for certain dissident factions that rejected the 2016 Colombian peace process, its country may soon feel the toll of old guerrilla tactics being deployed against its people and security forces.
Back in 1995, the Venezuelan government resorted to planting landmines to protect naval bases from Colombian armed groups operating along the country's border, particularly in Apure. But the country declared itself to be free of landmines to the United Nations in May 2013.