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Colombia’s Guerrilla Quietly Migrate to Venezuela ahead of Disarmament

By: Pedro García Otero - Jul 22, 2016, 4:49 pm
Mural in memory of FARC leader Manuel Marulanda in Caracas. The Colombian guerrilla activity reaches the neighboring country, according to guild leader of Tachira Javier Tarazona. (La Protesta Militar)
A mural in memory of FARC leader Manuel Marulanda in Caracas. (La Protesta Militar)

EspañolWhat happened in 2006 when Colombian Self Defense Forces demobilized in 2006 is being repeated a decade later with the peace accords signed between the Colombian government and FARC.

The remains of these guerrilla groups have refused to demobilize just as the paramilitary groups refused before them.

Now, these groups are traveling to Venezuela to dedicate themselves to common crime, according to Professor Javier Tarazona.

The resident of the town of Rubio in the Tachira state that borders Venezuela has been denouncing the influence of FARC and ELN in Venezuelan life for the last three years . They’ve been aided by a “Venezuelan government that has abandoned the border and whose government party has an ideological affinity with the guerrilla groups. It sees them as support if they eventually lose power.”

Talking to the PanAm Post, Tarazona said: “since the peace accords were signed, there has been an influx of guerrillas toward Venezuelan land.”

Tarazona is coordinator and founder of the Teacher’s Network in Defense of Human Rights and the President of the Teachers College of Tachira. He said even before this, they had been doing “drug dealing, human trafficking and contraband” activities along the border that have affected the states of Tachira, Zulia, Apure and Amazonas. They’ve even reached the Bolivar state, where they dedicated themselves “mainly to illegal mining.”

Tarazona has become a sort of expert in the guerrilla phenomenon just by dealing with it so much firsthand.

“Guerrilla groups, just like the paramilitary, have even reached Caracas,” he said. “Part of the massive kidnappings in the capital have as organizers and masterminds what was left of the AUC and Colombian guerrillas”.

Schools

Tarazona started with the AUC demobilization that brought an influx of irregular Colombians to the Venezuelan side of the border. Because of this he created the Teacher’s Network in Defense of Human Rights. In the last few years, he said over a thousand teachers have left their homes in border states after being threatened by FARC-EP and ELN. Also contributing to the displacing problem are the Fuerzas Bolivarianas de Liberación (Bolivarias Liberation Forces) — a local guerrilla group.

Threats to teachers range from intimidation to grave threats that provoke internal displacement. The president of the Tachira College of Teachers said: “I can say responsibly that FARC and ELN are recruiting children in Venezuela. They do it in schools, were guerrillas hand out their magazine Antorchain order to convert the little ones.”

He also said that according to reports by children, there are drug crops all along the Venezuelan border.

Even though Venezuela has always been a traditional bridge for drugs grown in Colombia to the Caribbean, Europe and United States, it hadn’t been known as a producer. Tarazona said that there are small crops along the border, mainly cannabis.

Due to lack of opportunities at the border, along with poor education, these zones have became a gold mine for illegal groups. A boy working as a lookout, of 9 or 10 years can make VEF 18 ($1.81 USD) a day there. No Venezuelan professional, even with graduate studies can make that amount in Venezuela.

Border schools have the face of Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro plastered everywhere, but no books labs or food.

“Venezuelan border schools are just children storage,” the coordinator of the Teacher’s Network in Defense of Human Rights said.

Guerrilla voices sounding loud

This week, Tarazona traveled to Caracas to say again (he had done so on several other occasions already) there there were several guerilla radio stations present in the area, such as Antorcha and Voz de la Libertad. Even though they transmit from Colombia, La Voz de la Libertad has a transmitter in El Tama National park, a 13,9000-hectare territory on the border.

The National Commission for Telecommunications of Venezuela (Conatel) “has been zealously closing private radio stations. This, just because they transmit messages the government doesn’t like. In contrast, it has done nothing about the complaints over the existence of these stations, which are secret,” Tarazona said. In fact, a few weeks ago, the Director of Conatel and journalist William Castillo closed two radio stations over the alleged undue use of electromagnetic spectrum.

The Maxima (106.1 FM) and WEPA (107.1 FM) radio stations were closed in Ureña, the last town in Tachira before the border with Cucuta, the capital of Norte de Santander state in Colombia.

Listening to Antorcha or La Voz de la Libertad is “like watching Venezolana de Televisión (the main government TV station) or listening to Radio Nacional de Venezuela,” Tarazona said.

He presented a report this week on the situation of the border to the Commission of Social Development of the National Assembly. The report explains how government abandonment makes this area fertile ground for illegal groups.

Connections between the Venezuelan government and FARC are not new. Dozens of reports describe how FARC troops have entered  the Venezuelan side.

Also, there was almost an armed conflict between Venezuela and Colombia in 2008 when Colombia bombed Raul Reyes’ camp. The camp was on the border with Ecuador and resulted in the guerrilla chief’s death. There are also reports of guerrilla chiefs (including the current negotiator, Ivan Marquez) living in Venezuela.

“On the border each day, FARC and ELN authority grows. Their movements are aggressive, the governor of Amazonas, Liborio Guarulla, reports over 6,000 guerrillas on the Venezuelan side of the border,” the coordinator of the Network of Teachers in Defense of Human Rights said

This, despite the fact that eleven months ago Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro closed the border. This caused the human avalanches that seen the past two weeks from thousands of Venezuelans looking for food that’s scarce in Venezuela.

Pedro García Otero Pedro García Otero

Pedro García is the Spanish managing editor of the PanAm Post. He is a Venezuelan journalist with over 25 years of experience in local newspapers, radio, television, and online media. Follow him @PedroGarciaO.