Venezuela Creates Special Unit to Fight Colombia Criminals

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President Nicolas Maduro announced the creation of a new special forces unit meant to fight Colombian neo-paramilitary groups operating inside Venezuela, a move which comes off as political posturing. 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the new military unit would combat the Colombian criminal groups dubbed “BACRIM” by the Colombian government, as they are “attacking Venezuela from Colombia.” 

The move comes just days after a nationwide police operation reportedly uncovered evidence to suggest that criminal paramilitary groups had “installed” themselves in the country. Maduro said the special unit will deal specifically with issues of “paramilitary threats, criminal drug trafficking, and penetration that has come from the outside.”

On the other side of the border, a Colombian non-governmental organization (NGO) in the border city of Cucuta recently condemned the involvement of Venezuelan nationals in BACRIM operations along the Colombia-Venezuela border. The NGO has alleged that BACRIM like the Rastrojos and the Urabeños are actively recruiting Venezuelan nationals to swell their ranks and support their operations.

The Colombia-Venezuela border has long been plagued by contraband smuggling, making it ripe territory for BACRIM activity. Tight currency and price controls in Venezuela further drive the smuggling trade in the region, as contraband runners can sell goods produced in Venezuela at much higher prices in Colombia. 

InSight Crime Analysis 

This is not the first time Venezuela has blamed Colombia for problems associated with organized crime. Facing pressure to do something about Venezuela’s chaotic security situation, Maduro’s announcement rings more like political theater rather than a carefully planned security policy. To be sure, Colombian BACRIM have engaged in cross-border operations, but it is unclear whether such events really warrant the creation of a dedicated military unit to combat them. 

SEE ALSO: BACRIM in Venezuela Profile

Both Colombia and Venezuela would do well to improve their bilateral cooperation on issues like border violence, drug trafficking, and contraband. Instead, the relationship between both countries has often run into tensions. In 2014, the situation deteriorated to the point that Venezuela even experimented with nightly border closures

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