Venezuela: Colombians Massacred Near Border Were Paramilitaries

Venezuelan Vice President and Defence Minister Ramón Carrizales claimed on Sunday that he had evidence that a group of Colombians who were kidnapped and assassinated a week earlier in Venezuelan territory were part of a “paramilitary infiltration plan” that aimed to destabilise the socialist government of President Hugo Chavez.

Venezuelan Vice President and Defence Minister Ramón Carrizalez (Aporrea)

by Kiraz Janicke - Venezuelanalysis.com

Caracas, November 2nd2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan Vice President and Defence Minister Ramón Carrizales claimed on Sunday that he had evidence that a group of Colombians who were kidnapped and assassinated a week earlier in Venezuelan territory were part of a “paramilitary infiltration plan” that aimed to destabilise the socialist government of President Hugo Chavez.

The bodies of 9 Colombians, one Peruvian and one Venezuelankidnapped on October 11 during an amateur football match were foundexecuted on October 24, in the border state of Tachira. They arebelieved to have been executed by an illegal armed group operating inthe region.  

Carrizales appeared on the television show José Vicente Hoy, hostedby former Vice President José Vicente Rangel and broadcast by privateTV channel Televen. He told Rangel that the victims, known as “LosManiceros” or peanut vendors, because they apparently made a livingselling peanuts, “had all the characteristics of a paramilitary groupin training, which was being consolidated with another goal.”

 “The threat from Colombia and imperialism is materialising,” saidCarrizales, “but we are also preparing to defend our territory toensure our sovereignty.”

The families of the victims have denied that they were involved in paramilitary activity.

Opposition governor of Tachira, Cesar Perez Vivas blamed themassacre on the National Liberation Army (ELN), a leftist guerrillagroup from Colombia, and accused the Chavez government of losingcontrol of the border region.

In turn, Carrizales sustained that the governors of Tachira andZulia, another border state controlled by the opposition, areresponsible for the security of their states, because they manage theregional police forces and security resources, “which is not to saythat as a national government we're evading our responsibilities.”

The region bordering Colombia is one the most conflict-ridden areasof Venezuela. Authorities say that Colombian paramilitary groups,leftist guerrillas, drug traffickers and extortion rings all operatethere.

Carrizales also accused Perez Vivas, who is from the right-wingCOPEI party, of “complicity” in forming an alleged “logistics base” forparamilitary operations in the region.

Earlier this year, Perez Vivas, together with representatives frombusiness organizations and private security firms, created a parallelpolice force called the “Regional Human Security Council,” in Tachira.

The “Regional Human Security Council” and a previous separatistreferendum on autonomy promoted by Perez Vivas were ruledunconstitutional by the Venezuela Supreme Court.

Amidst reports of increased paramilitary activity after themassacre, the Venezuelan government ordered the deployment of 515border guards to Tachira on Friday, in order to strengthen security inthe region.

Interior and Justice Minister Tarek El Aissami, in an interview withstate-run VTV, announced that eight Colombians including a knownparamilitary leader, Jorge Roa Bolanos were captured in San Antonio delTachira, a city 850 kilometres west of the Venezuelan capital onFriday. El Aissami did not say whether the arrests were related to themassacre.

“These people were intimidating the local population… they werehanding out fliers, as the paramilitaries do, saying that socialcleansing was going to start. That is to say, murders anddisappearances,” he said.

Local media reported that as many as one thousand businessestablishments shuttered their doors. However, the minister said just a“limited number” had closed. “Once we strengthened the [military andpolice] presence, little by little calm and daily activities wererestored,” El Aissami said in San Antonio.

The Venezuelan government will take strong measures againstparamilitary groups operating in its territory, because it will notallow foreign forces linked to the U.S. Empire and the Colombian Armyto generate fear amongst Venezuelan citizens, the minister declared.

Relations between Venezuela and Colombia, which share a 2,219 kmland border, have deteriorated since Colombia agreed to a deal thatexpands the US troop presence on its military bases. Venezuela says theagreement is a threat to its Bolivarian revolution and to peace in theregion.

The incidents on the border, together with the recent arrest ofthree men accused of spying for the Colombian intelligence service lastmonth have exacerbated these tensions.

In a report to Venezuela’s National Assembly El Aissami presentedwhat he described as “irrefutable evidence” that Colombia had sentspies to Venezuela, Ecuador and Cuba as part of a CIA operation.

The documents allegedly originating from Colombia’s DAS werediscovered following the apprehension of the suspected Colombian spieson Venezuelan soil, El Aissami said.

Colombia denied the accusations and on Saturday announced theexpulsion of a Venezuelan National Guard member visiting its territory.

Bogota has also accused its neighbour of arming leftist Colombianguerrilla groups – a charge that Venezuela emphatically denies – andnot doing enough to stop drug trafficking.

Venezuela has responded that Colombia is the largest cocaineproducer, accounting for 60% of global production and that its internalproblems are spilling over into Venezuelan territory.

Trade between the two countries has also declined considerably afterChavez vowed to reduce trade with his neighbour following the USmilitary agreement.

Although Venezuela remains the second largest destination forColombian exports after the U.S., exports to Venezuela in Septemberdeclined 49.5% according to a report by Colombia’s StatisticsDepartment due to the blockade imposed on Colombian agriculturalproducts by Venezuelan authorities.

Venezuela aims to substitute all imports of raw materials from its neighbour by the end of this year.

Source URL (retrieved on Nov 3 2009 - 12:21): http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4909

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