Venezuela Govt Claims Military Buildup at Colombian Border is to Combat Criminal Groups

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Venezuela has positioned 17 military bases along its border with Colombia in an effort to address what security officials describe as multiple attacks coming from Colombian paramilitary groups. But will the government of Nicolás Maduro fight the criminal organizations operating in both countries?

Former police officer and border official Freddy Bernal announced the move, though he didn’t specify the amount of military personnel that would be transferred to the border.

“We have located 17 operation bases throughout 190 kilometers, which will be under the command of the division general, José Leonardo Noroño. He will exclusively dedicate [himself] to monitoring the border, given the presumption of paramilitary attacks coming from the Republic of Colombia,” Bernal said.

SEE ALSO: Venezuela News and Profile

Noroño becomes the new base commander just a month after the US Treasury Department sanctioned him for barring humanitarian aid from entering the county. Bernal, who also has been sanctioned for his alleged ties with Colombian guerrilla, added that the installment of the new military bases is due to “multiple aggressions from Iván Duque’s narco-government…who continues to support border paramilitary groups with a clear agenda against Venezuela, intending to destabilize and enter cocaine and marijuana into Venezuela, turning the site into a possible [drug] route,” reported the Diario de Los Andes.

A spokesman for the ruling party pointed to the capture of an alleged paramilitary member in the town of Delicias in the border state of Táchira. He claimed that the fighter has started providing information of a terrorist plot that the Colombian government has been preparing with irregular armed groups.

Similar claims were made by President Maduro after the capture of a leader of Los Rostrojos, a Colombian criminal group, which operates along the Venezuela-Colombia border. Wilfrido Torres Gómez, alias “Necoclí”, was captured in Venezuela on March 23. Maduro said he was linked to an alleged terrorist plan orchestrated by the Venezuelan opposition, with the support of paramilitary groups from Colombia.

However, three weeks after the arrest there is no new information on the case or the alleged terrorist actions.

InSight Crime Analysis

The installation of 17 military bases at the Colombia-Venezuela border is unlikely to stop the sheltering of criminal groups and Colombian rebel forces in Venezuelan border states, because their presence has been tolerated for years.

In fact,  the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN) now has guerrilla fighters in 12 Venezuelan states, roughly half of the country. And dissidents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) are present throughout at least a quarter of the country. Criminal groups like Los Rastrojos also are reported to work in alliance with the Bolivarian National Guard (Guardia Nacional Bolivariana – GNB).

       SEE ALSO: ELN Now Present in Half of Venezuela

Professor Miguel Morffe, a border studies specialist at Colombia’s Universidad de Los Andes, told InSight Crime that Venezuela previously militarized the border in the 1990s. The action, however, showed few results.

He said he doesn’t believe that Venezuela’s latest buildup of troops at the border will restrain illicit activities carried out in the region

“The actors operating there, ELN, Popular Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Popular – EPL), ‘colectivos’ and ‘boliches’ (Bolivarian Liberation Forces), are all in the favor of the national government and there has been no evidence of actions against them,” he said.

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