By Misión Verdad – Jan 24, 2022
The violence that has recently occurred on the border between Venezuela and Colombia, specifically in the municipality of Paez, Apure state, should be regarded as a symptom of lines of tension being drawn with concrete geopolitical interests in mind.
There provide strong reasons to analyze these events as a projection of the tension created by the Atlanticist axis against Russia in Ukraine, into which the European Union has been drawn, due to the latest actions of Uribismo in the Colombian government, with respect to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB) resumed its deployment of military troops on the border, near the Arauca River, following outbursts of violence involving Colombian armed groups since the end of 2021. This violence is mainly attributed to the dissident 10th Front which split off from the now-defunct FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), and the forces of the National Liberation Army (ELN).
The Venezuelan State has named these and other groups “TANCOL,” an acronym for terroristas armados narcotraficantes de Colombia (armed terrorist drug traffickers of Colombia), in order to specify their goals and origin, and to distinguish them from other illegal groups in the region.
General-in-Chief Domingo Hernández Lárez, general commander of the Strategic Operational Command of the FANB, announced the dispatch of groups of soldiers from the states of Lara and Cojedes to reinforce the military presence in the area, which occurs a few months after the deployment of Operation Bolivarian Shield.
The first armed encounter between the ELN and the 10th Front occurred in the Los Cañitos sector of La Victoria, resulting in seven deaths, as reported two days later by Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano.
President Iván Duque arrived in the department of Arauca to supervise the deployment of his military forces in the area which, according to the press, amounted to 600 troops, making Arauca the most militarized department in Colombia.
That same day, the police station in the town of Betoyes, in the municipality of Tame, was attacked with fragmentation grenades, and on January 19, representatives of the ex-FARC’s 28th Front claimed responsibility for car bombs detonated in the city of Saravena. Some buses and public services were also attacked by this group in a violent day that left 33 people killed and 500 displaced.
On the same day that Duque held a security council in Arauca, the ELN posted photographs of the armed takeover of La Esmeralda village, in Arauquita, on social media networks.
ELN members in the village of La Esmeralda in the municipality of Arauquita were photographed while Duque was visiting the area (Photo: Archive).
The following day the self-government of the Simón Bolívar Communal City, located in the municipality of Páez in Apure state, denounced the seizure of the town of La Gabarra by at least 50 irregular ELN troops. The organized community issued a communiqué expressing its rejection of this new incursion of TANCOL which directly affects its daily life, in addition to violating its sovereignty.
“More than 50 armed men have taken the town of La Gabarra, in the purest style of a foreign occupation army,” read the statement. “We demand both armed actors, both ELN and FARC, to take their conflict elsewhere; that Venezuela, Apure, and Simón Bolívar Communal City is a territory of peace, sovereignty, and popular democracy”.
The socialist communal city Simón Bolívar covers 116,000 hectares, in which 7,600 people live in 42 communal councils, grouped in eight communes in the parishes of Guasdualito and San Camilo (El Nula) of the municipality of Páez.
Recently, Colombian media published a video in which “Nelson Sánchez,” an alleged deserter from the 10th Front, affirms that “Romaña” and “El Paisa” were murdered last December by a group of 26 mercenaries among which there were two “gringos.” The dead were two former leaders, alongside a member known as “Ivan Marquez,” of the group that abandoned the 2016 Peace Accords and founded a dissident group called the Second Marquetalia.
The deserter indicated that he was under the command of “Jaime Chucula,” who has a direct connection with the Colombian state and in turn received orders from Arturo Ruiz, responsible for receiving the mercenaries in a camp where they disembarked “at night by helicopter.”
In another part of his statement, “Sánchez” relates that “Comrade Jaime was in charge of assigning them the mission of destroying any type of group that smells of revolution… The 26 that arrived had the mission of killing Comrade ‘Romaña’ and Comrade ‘Paisa.'” He also said that a shipment of sophisticated weapons, long-range drones, and border surveillance scopes arrived at the Venezuelan side of the border, in a town known as Esmeralda, along with boots, uniforms, and even “anti-tank weapons.”
What has changed since 2021?
To answer this question it is worthwhile to recount what happened in the Alto Apure region prior to 2022, and how what was a collateral effect of the war in Colombia is now part of a plan to fracture the institution of the state in Venezuela. In this regard, this forum has conducted research that clarifies the picture in a profound way.
The key point lies in the deep relationship between today’s Colombian narco-state, presided over by President Iván Duque, the Mexican cartels, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), an agency of the US Department of Justice. It is already known how on the Colombian side a circuit of non-state armed groups has been established as part of an agreement that seems to be established between the state and national and transnational para-economic actors to “lubricate” their economic activities based on drug trafficking.
“President Nicolás Maduro warned that part of the strategy of the Colombian oligarchy is to infiltrate our country with armed terrorist groups and drug traffickers from Colombia, better known as TANCOL,” wrote Presidential Press on social media networks in September 2021:
Pdte. @NicolasMaduro alertó que parte de la estrategia de la oligarquía colombiana es infiltrar nuestro país de grupos Terroristas Armados, Narcotraficantes de Colombia, mejor conocidos como TANCOL. pic.twitter.com/QBhzbeEnrk
— Prensa Presidencial (@PresidencialVen) September 30, 2021
In addition, NGOs such as the Progresar Foundation’s Human Rights Observatory have located 12 Colombian illegal armed networks operating along the borders with Venezuela, including criminal groups and forces called “dissidents” of the ex-FARC, such as paramilitary groups Los Rastrojos, Los Urabeños, the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC), Black Eagles, and the National Liberation Army (ELN), among others.
The movements of a faction of the FARC dissidents, specifically the 10th Front led by “Gentil Duarte” and “Arturo,” led to a confrontation between these irregular groups coming from Colombia and the security forces of the Bolivarian Republic that caused deaths and kidnappings of Venezuelan troops, in addition to the terror instilled by the corporate media inside and outside the border communities of the Apure-Arauca region.
The trigger at the beginning of 2021 was the damage inflicted by the FANB to aircrafts and shipments of illicit substances, among other drug trafficking tools, since January of that year, in what became a strategic corridor for air shipments to Mexico, due to its geographic qualities and the porousness of the border.
In February of that year Venezuela implemented Operation Bolivarian Shield 2021 within the framework of the joint military exercises named Supreme Commander Hugo Chávez Frías 2021, activated by the CEOFANB, whose purpose was to “increase the operational readiness of the Bolivarian National Armed Force, combat and expel internal and external threats, and Colombian armed groups that could be found in the nation.” In the same month, there were confrontations with a cell of irregular groups coming from Colombia in three sectors, in the surroundings of Puerto Ayacucho, the capital of Amazonas state, after the cell was located through patrolling and search by CEOFANB units.
In 2020, an aircraft with U.S. acronym dedicated to drug trafficking was neutralized by the FANB (Photo: Archive).
Also in that month the FANB dismantled eight camps, destroyed eight drug-landing sites, and seized an aircraft with false license plates, solar panels, uniforms, and war material in the Pedro Camejo municipality of Apure state. At that time Últimas Noticias reported that “for two weeks there were confrontations between the state security forces and the subversive groups present in the area of the Pedro Camejo municipality.”
In March, armaments, grenades, ammunition, explosives, military clothing, vehicles, drug packages, and technological equipment containing information related to the activities of the Colombian irregular group were seized in the midst of a confrontation that included the positioning of anti-personnel mines in the vicinity of the camps where they operated; the execution of psychological warfare campaigns on the population of the invaded territory through social networks and WhatsApp chains to create social panic, recruit local operators and try to create anti-government sentiment through fake news and other infowar mechanisms; and attacks on public institutions and infrastructure (CORPOELEC, SENIAT and PDVSA) with heavy weapons and explosives.
On the other hand, last December 8, Molano met with NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană, and they agreed on a new cooperation framework, the Individualized Partnership Program, which marks the beginning of an even closer cooperation. As is known, Colombia became the “global partner” of the Atlantic alliance in 2018, and the first in Latin America, thus NATO supports the neighboring country “in its continued efforts to develop its armed forces, while Colombia provides demining training to NATO allies and other partner countries.”
The note further states that the new program “encompasses areas of enhanced cooperation such as interoperability, integrity-building, training, and education, as well as new areas such as climate change and security.”
Regarding the initial question, it can be observed that what has changed has been the confrontation on the other side of the border, as it has worsened and the war is recycled in Colombia. In particular, the department of Arauca is the scene of confrontations between irregular groups in which the Colombian state is another catalyst, because it has become a NATO-aligned military megabase that, seeking to include Venezuela in its war and balkanize the country, carries out operations in violation of Venezuelan sovereignty.
An angle of analysis, which allows us to link the events in the Arauca-Apure border, finds a parallel in the way NATO itself has heightened the tension around the alleged threat of Russia to Ukraine, in which propaganda, as part of the infowar, plays a starring role.
From Ukraine to Colombia, NATOist coincidences
The differences between Ukraine and Colombia are evident and extensive, however there are coincidences between both countries, such as the deliberate and permanent violation of agreements. In Colombia, these are the peace agreements signed between Colombia and the FARC in 2016, while in Ukraine these are the Minsk agreements, signed in September 2014 and in February 2015, the latter in order to avoid ethnic cleansing operations executed by the army and neo-Nazi groups against the populations of the autonomous republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, which declared their separation from Ukraine and annexation to Russia after the EuroMaidan.
There is a greater coincidence found in the censorship by the international mainstream media of these violations. International media avoid reporting them or holding responsible the states that exercise mechanisms of dirty war under the direct support of the Western axis, that is to say, NATO with the United States at its head. The war against the inhabitants of eastern Ukraine has already caused 14,000 deaths. These are territories historically and culturally linked to Russia, where 98% of the population is Russian-speaking, and many are Russian citizens.
NATO, however, has set a date and figures for an alleged invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces: early 2022 with at least 175,000 troops. In this way it hides the maneuvers of the Atlantic alliance, its coordination meetings, the increase in contributions for arms expenditure, which amounts to 2% of the GDP in one-third of the members of the organization formed by 30 nations, which translates into the highest concentration of troops, arms, and military budget in the world.
The United States alone had a military budget of $811 billion in 2021, Great Britain’s was $72 billion, Germany’s was $64 billion, and France’s was $59 billion. Such figures far exceed the $66 billion budget of the Russian Federation.
If it seems that the infowar has reached the extreme, there are media such as El Mundo of Spain ready to reach to new levels by copying communiqués issued by the State Department.
US and NATO military installations around Russia demolish the “Russian threat” narrative (Photo: RT).
One detail: in 2015, under USEUCOM (United States European Command), responsible for the command of US troops in Europe, the Pentagon sent “military experts to increase Ukraine’s defensive capabilities” and allocated $46 million to deliver to Kiev “military hardware, including vehicles and night vision devices.”
There are also NATOist relapses
Likewise, while establishing a warmongering narrative against Venezuela by escalating elements of the Colombian internal war to threats against Venezuela, drug trafficking is made into a spearhead that violates the tranquility of border populations and national sovereignty, and justifies the presence of the NATOist presence up to the Venezuelan border.
In this way, transnational corporations, mega-projects of extractive companies, and narco-paramilitarism seek to soften up a geostrategic region for eventual access to its oil reserves, water, minerals, and other natural resources, through war-like and informational agitation.
Various military sites in the department of Arauca and other border departments of Colombia receive advice, training, and support from the US military, including the Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB), which are “specialized units with the central mission of carrying out training, advising, assisting, enabling and accompanying activities with allied and partner nations” so there would be reason to put the focus on the statements of “Nelson Sanchez.”
For its part, the ELN has denounced that one of the hybrid war operations carried out by the SFAB is “to form and operate with groups posing as successors of the demobilized FARC, such as that of alias ‘Arturo,’ a tactic known as ‘killing with someone else’s dagger.'”
Last year in declarations to the media, General Vladimir Padrino López, Venezuelan Minister of Defense, denounced the infoxication [related to information disseminated by the internet] operations linked to the fourth-generation warfare in progress. This has had its expression in the attempt by the corporate press to impose the narrative that those causing the deaths on the border have been precisely “the enemies” of the government of Iván Duque (the “dictatorship of Maduro” and the Colombian “insurgent groups”).
Working in favor of this imposed narrative was the fact that little information circulated at that time, and in the early days following, creating a breeding ground for speculation and for spreading hoaxes in social media networks. However, the controlled script was falling apart due to what could be called a “lack of coordination” among media spokespersons.
A recurring theme is the determination of the Global North to impose the narrative of a “failed state” on Venezuela. In that sense, the gestation of multiform crises in Venezuelan territory would evolve into forceful actions of the international community under the vague doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Last year, the former opposition deputy supported by Washington, Juan Guaidó, tried to smear Operation Bolivarian Shield 2021 by portraying it as a concerted plan to violate the human rights of the border communities of Alto Apure.
The Duque administration joined this narrative by blaming Venezuela for the fact that almost 5,000 Venezuelan migrants fled Apure due to the fighting, and for the “serious humanitarian effects on civil society” resulting from the CEOFANB operation, without ceasing to make appeals to the “international community,” while ignoring the war that Colombia sustains and feeds.
The operations of the groups, later named TANCOL by President Maduro, included the criminal use of people displaced by drug trafficking and clashes as human shields to cross from the Venezuelan side to the neighboring side, a tactic qualified as a war crime under the Rome Statute.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Bogotà released a report stating how 72,300 people had to flee their homes during 159 mass displacement emergencies between January and November 2021, an increase of 62% in the number of events and 196% in the number of displaced people, compared to the same period in 2020, when 24,469 victims were reported.
78% of displaced persons in Colombia are Indigenous peoples, however the media narrative focused on Operation Bolivarian Shield 2021 (Photo: Archive).
The causes of mass displacements are mainly linked (33%) to pamphlets, calls, and other methods to frighten the population with threats by non-state armed groups, while clashes between these groups generated 24% of displacements. Another 9% were due to harassment. Only 26% (19,229 people) have been able to return to their places of origin, mostly without security guarantees.
“There is evidence of a territorial expansion of non-state armed groups… which leads to an increase of confrontations and consequently of the humanitarian impact generated on the civilian population,” highlighted the report issued.
Recently, Minister Padrino López made mention of the movements of the Atlantic alliance as part of its projection towards Latin America, referring in particular to the agreements with Colombia and the second joint training between the military forces of Brazil and the United States that took place within the framework of the CORE (Combined Operations and Rotation Exercises) initiative, signed by the parties in October 2020 to “increase interoperability” between their armies.
“NATO intends to take over the world by extending further into Eastern Europe,” wrote Padrino recently on Twitter. “At the same time, the transatlantic organization is projecting itself into Latin America, with Colombia as a pawn, and the increasingly determined presence of military and naval means in our area of influence. And then?”
La OTAN pretende adueñarse del mundo extendiéndose más al este de Europa. Al mismo tiempo la organización trasatlántica se proyecta a Latinoamérica con Colombia como peón y la presencia cada vez más resuelta de medios militares y navales en nuestra área de influencia ¿Y entonces? pic.twitter.com/JfrcgScSEs
— Vladimir Padrino L. (@vladimirpadrino) January 17, 2022
It is worth noting that last year Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro authorized the “entry” and “temporary stay” of a contingent of US troops consisting of 240 military personnel for joint training that took place from November 28 to December 18 in Brazil. In addition to the US troops, the entry of “weapons, accessories, ammunition, optical devices and sensors, and command, control and communication equipment” was also authorized, according to the decree issued.
Much has been contributed from different analyses about how Colombia’s abandonment of the border territories is, in reality, part of a plan to increase the effectiveness of drug trafficking as a “lubricant” of the hemispheric economy, the main reason for the jealous protectorate of the DEA and the US Army. Hence the little interest in the fulfillment of the peace accords and the little attention to the violent displacements of civilians that continues to break records while paramilitary groups and other groups such as the 10th Front of the FARC dissidents expand their zones of influence.
Thus their financial mechanisms are being strengthened with Mexican cartels, US banks, US government agencies such as the DEA, actors directly linked to Uribismo and feeding the huge profits of the military industrial complex, the economic heart of NATO, which is no coincidence.
Featured image: The border between Venezuela and Colombia at the Arauca River has been heating up again since the beginning of 2022 (Photo: Archive).
Additional translation by: Orinoco Tribune
Misión Verdad is a Venezuelan investigative journalism website with a socialist perspective in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution
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