Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced at a meeting of high-ranking Colombian military officials that regional security commanders from Colombia and Venezuela have, for the first time ever, “almost daily communication.”
The meeting, aimed at discussing security issues on the Colombia-Venezuela border, included a report by members of the military which detailed the coordination between the two countries’ security forces. Santos extolled the apparent step forward, saying it would “allow us to be much more effective in the fight against… terrorism, [and] crime on the border.”
The president also explained other measures taken by security forces in La Guajira, the border department where the conference was being held, in order to combat violence, including the arrest of 16 members of the Urabeños criminal group.
InSight Crime Analysis
Various indicators point to Venezuela as a safe haven and pathway for Colombian drug traffickers and armed groups. There are widespread reports that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) use Venezuela as a base from which to launch attacks on Colombian security forces. This past January, a massacre in a Venezuelan border town was a violent spillover from the ongoing war between Colombian gangs the Urabeños and Rastrojos.
The announcement of greater cooperation in La Guajira comes just weeks after a cross-border incursion by the FARC killed 12 Colombian soldiers in the department. Colombian authorities asserted that after the attack, the assailants fled into Venezuela. President Hugo Chavez responded by mobilizing two brigades of 3,000 troops to find the perpetrators, adding to the 15,000 troops sent to the border in March. Within days, 10 suspects had been arrested and extradited to Colombia.
Despite the show of solidarity on the part of the Venezuelan government, Rocio San Miguel, the head of Venezuelan NGO Citizen’s Control for Security, Defence and the Armed Forces, contended shortly after the attack that the only way to properly secure the border “is through effective cooperation between units led by middle-ranking officers, with permanent patrolling, and cooperation on intelligence and communications.” If there is indeed daily contact between regional commanders, this is a step in the right direction, but ultimately more important than the quantity of the communication is the quality.
Another concrete sign of the increased cooperation between the Venezuelan and Colombian security forces is the number of high-profile drug traffickers arrested. Since last month’s cross-border attack, Venezuela and Colombia have collaborated to capture Diego Rastrojo, leader of the Rastrojos, a group which has largely controlled the drug trafficking corridors along the border. Reports indicate that he was captured by Venezuelan authorities with intelligence gathered by Colombian and US agents.