On April 3, Colombian Minister of Defense Diego Molano accused Venezuela of acting as an “accomplice” of Colombian narcotrafficking groups in heavy confrontations that have forced thousands of people to cross the border and take refuge in Colombia.
“What is happening in Venezuela is that narcotrafficking is slowly taking over the country […] in collusion with the Bolivarian forces and the Maduro regime,” Molano said in an interview with the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.
In the last week of March, about 5,000 people crossed the border to the Colombian municipality of Arauquita, seeking refuge from heavy confrontations between Venezuelan public forces and a Colombian armed group. Some people have reported extrajudicial executions of civilians by Venezuelan uniformed personnel.
The fighting left nine “terrorists” dead, 39 detained, and four service members dead, according to Venezuelan authorities’ official figures. Maduro recognized that dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish) guerrilla group — which dissolved after signing a peace accord in 2016 — might be involved in the clashes.
However, according to Molano, Venezuelan service members attacked “in a complicit and selective way only the dissidents” led by a former FARC member known as Iván Mordisco, in an attempt to favor another group led by former FARC leader Iván Márquez, who in August 2019 withdrew from the historic peace agreement that put an end to more than half a century of armed conflict.
The chief of Defense accused the Venezuelan government of partnering with Márquez’ group and the National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish) — the last known guerrilla group in Colombia — to achieve “unity of command” in narcotrafficking routes across the 2,200-kilometer border between both countries.
“The goal of the operations there is not to protect the border, but to protect the narcotrafficking business,” Molano said.
Colombian President Iván Duque has accused Maduro of protecting these groups in Venezuelan territory. Caracas has denied the accusations and blames the violence on Bogotá for neglecting the border.