According to one source, the violent incident that prompted Venezuela to close its border with Colombia did not involve contraband smugglers as originally reported, but corrupt members of Venezuelan security forces participating in a botched drug smuggling operation.
An unnamed “intelligence” source told El Nuevo Heraldo that a spat between members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) and the Venezuelan military is the real reason behind the attacks that sparked the most recent crisis along the border.
Jose Antonio Colina, president of an association for politically persecuted Venezuelan expatriates, told the newspaper that there is “practically a war going on” between members of the military and members of the GNB who are involved in the drug trade.
The skirmish that took place on August 19 left three soldiers and one civilian injured. President Nicolas Maduros had previously blamed the incident on the “Colombian paramilitary plague” that is “taking over Venezuela,” using the situation as a pretext to unilaterally close the border.
Since then, Venezuela has moved almost 2,000 troops to the region and has begundeporting Colombians from Venezuela. This heavy-handed response to the purported threat of Colombian paramilitary criminal groups along the frontier comes just six weeks after Maduro announced the creation of a new special forces unit, meant to deal with the threat of Colombian organized criminal groups.
InSight Crime Analysis
While the allegations of a skirmish between the GNB and members of the military are unverified, there are strong precedents implicating corrupt Venezuelan security officials in drug trafficking schemes. In past instances, high-ranking members of the GNB have been accused of collaborating directly with Colombian criminal groups, providing logistics and security for cross-border drug trafficking operations.
The drama along the border speaks to larger issues of poor security cooperation between the two countries. Paramilitary groups and other criminal gangs from Colombia undoubtedly pose a security threat to the region, given their involvement in cross-border smuggling operations. However, Venezuela’s tendency to blame Colombia for its security problems downplays the possibility that its own corrupt security forces might be contributing to the chaos along the frontier, and by and large stands in the way of actual cooperation and reform.