Venezuela's leftist militias are known as "colectivos"

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.

 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network. The BACRIM's roots lie in the demobilized paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy. Unlike their paramilitary and drug cartel predecessors, the BACRIM maintain a diversified...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...