Latin America

Venezuelan Defence Minister Claims US and Colombia Behind Guerrilla Border Raids

Some sources have claimed a series of guerrilla attacks in western Venezuela’s border region are the work of dissident factions from the Colombian FARC, which renounced armed struggle in 2016 and has ten deputies in Congress,. But Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino López denounced “misinformation” by media and NGOs.

Venezuela’s defence minister has accused the US and Colombia of backing paramilitary incursions that have left two soldiers dead.

General Vladimir Padrino López accused the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Pentagon and Colombian President Ivan Duque of being behind the series of cross-border infiltrations that have been confronted by the Venezuelan armed forces, Venezuelanalyis reported.

The general accused unnamed Colombian paramilitary groups of “drug running, extortion, kidnapping, human trafficking, sexual child exploitation, smuggling, illegal mining… and the use of antipersonnel mines.”

In the latest incident on Thursday, two sergeants were killed in a clash in the border state of Apure. Several Colombian gunmen were also killed and others captured.

“The aforementioned groups have the backing of the Colombian government and of the Central Intelligence Agency. As such, their incursions into Venezuela should be considered as an attack by Ivan Duque who… is creating a criminal corridor on the border under the advice of the US Southern Command” Padrino López said, referring to the US military’s forces in Latin America.

Several journalists have claimed the attacks were carried out by breakaway factions from the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which has transformed itself since the 2016 peace accords into the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force political party — which has the same acronym. The Marxist FARC has received political support from Venezuela’s Socialist Party government.

/ The Photographer / PDVSA
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But the defence minister denounced a “misinformation campaign” by foreign media and NGOs, without giving details or commenting on the identities of the militant groups.

Last week journalist Érika Ortega Sanoja claimed the incursions were the responsibility of a 1,500-strong FARC split in south-east Colombia led by Gentil Duarte, the nom-de-guerre of Miguel Santillana.

Ortega Sanoja claimed Duarte’s faction had switched sides and now supported the Colombian “oligarchy” as a US “franchise” force, and was involved in drug trafficking.

Colombian authorities said 4,700 civilians, both Venezuelan and Colombian citizens, have been displaced by the border skirmishes and have fled across the border and are now being housed in camps around the town of Arauquita. Venezuela took in some 5 million Colombian refugees from the five-decade civil war.

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