The Government of Nicolás Maduro has confirmed the kidnapping of eight soldiers in the border area with Colombia. “We denounce before the international community, before multilateral organizations, and human rights organizations, the infamous kidnapping of these soldiers and we demand that their captors preserve their life and physical integrity,” declared the Venezuelan Minister of Defense, Vladimir Padrino, Saturday. The military has been kidnapped since April 23 by alleged dissidents of the former guerrilla of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, but even only organizations such as FundaRedes and relatives of the soldiers denounced it. Following the minister’s words, state television VTV broadcast a video with a life certificate of 8 Venezuelan military personnel that was received by the Venezuelan authorities on May 9, according to the statement read by the official.
Two months ago, the Venezuelan government deployed the “Bolivarian Shield”, an intense military operation in southern Venezuela with the aim of fighting what Chavismo has come to call Gricolt, Colombian armed groups. The Ministry of Defense has sent armored vehicles, combat planes and helicopters, troops from different contingents of the country, including police reinforcements from the Special Actions Forces of the National Police. It also created a special border military unit in the towns of La Victoria, El Ripial and other towns on the banks of the Arauca River, where the violence has already displaced more than 6,000 people to the Colombian side.
So far in the conflict, the authorities have reported the death of 16 members of the Armed Forces in attacks with antipersonnel mines and ambushes by guerrillas. The Venezuelan government has also assured that the irregular have 9 casualties – among which is a peasant family that denounced the execution of four of its members by the Army – and that they have captured 34 alleged criminals, including some members of the Sinaloa Cartel. Now the eight kidnapped are added, of which they have not given the names or said in the hands of which group they are or the circumstances of their capture.
Padrino reported that the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry is making representations to the International Red Cross for the release of the soldiers. “We express unconditional solidarity and unrestricted support to the families of such brave comrades in arms, who in a gallant and stoic manner continue to honor the sacred oath to defend the homeland; we will spare no effort and we will exhaust all possible ways to recover them safe and sound ”.
At the beginning of this week an alleged communication from the so-called Tenth Front Martín Villa of the FARC-EP dissidents circulated where they reported that they had as “prisoners of war” five Venezuelan sergeants, two lieutenants and a first lieutenant. They asked the humanitarian agency to mediate for the delivery. To this have been added the complaints of mothers of the kidnapped and other soldiers who report as missing, spread by Javier Tarazona, director of FundaRedes, an NGO that has documented the conflict on the border.
In one of the videos that circulated this Saturday as proof of life, only five Army and Navy soldiers appear. Each of the soldiers identifies with their rank, claims to have received good treatment from the FARC, and asks that the conflict on the border be resolved through dialogue. According to the testimony of the hostages, the video was recorded more than 10 days ago, on May 4. In another recording, eight soldiers appear, but it lacks audio.
The incident has been covered by the recurring opacity of the Venezuelan authorities. Fighting continues in the area. Civil society organizations asked the United Nations a few weeks ago to appoint a special envoy for the border conflict, which may escalate due to the total freezing of relations between Colombia and Venezuela for two years, amid the institutional conflict that it unleashed. the inauguration of Nicolás Maduro for a second term, after elections classified as fraudulent and which were not recognized by the international community.
The crossfire of recent weeks also enters the geopolitical terrain that has marked the Venezuelan crisis. Russia, one of Maduro’s main allies, warned on Thursday about the danger that the situation in Apure represented for stability in the region. “We are seriously concerned about the worsening on the border between Venezuela and Colombia, where the Venezuelan Armed Forces have been trying in recent weeks to prevent illegal armed units and drug trafficking groups from entering the country. These armed clashes, which have intensified in recent days, have caused many victims. A possible deterioration of the situation could have extremely negative consequences for regional stability and security, “said the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, who called on President Iván Duque to” heed Maduro’s calls for dialogue. ”.
For several years, organizations such as the International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch have denounced the presence of Colombian irregular groups in Venezuelan territory, in particular members of the FARC and the National Liberation Army. The border corridor has become the source of income for these groups from illicit activities such as drug trafficking, extortion, illegal mining and migrant smuggling, some of their reports indicate. Analysts such as Rocío San Miguel, from Social Watch, have also warned about the formation of a “binational guerrilla” and about how the volatile local alliances between guerrillas, security forces and state actors and their struggles for territory and businesses appear as a backdrop. of this new crisis.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.