The Venezuelan socialist regime is allowing Colombia’s Marxist National Liberation Army (ELN) terrorists to operate in at least 12 states, a report revealed on Tuesday.
Venezuela has 23 states not counting Caracas, which operates as a separate capital district.
An analysis by InSight Crime found that the ELN, recognized internationally as a terrorist organization, is engaging in a range of criminal activity such as cattle and gasoline smuggling, extortion, drug trafficking, illegal mining, and even attacks on the country’s security forces.
The ELN units have managed to advance around 1,500 kilometers from the Colombian border with Venezuela’s Táchira state as well as states bordering Guyana and Brazil, such as Bolívar and Amazonas, and coastal areas, such as Anzoátegui and Falcón.
Municipalities such as Atures in Amazonas, José Gregorio Monagas in Anzoátegui, and Sifontes in the state of Bolívar have reportedly seen the ELN attempt to take control of local mining for gold, diamond, and coltan, forcing local indigenous communities to hand them over control of public order. There have also been various acts of violence reported in this area.
Furthermore, residents of Catatumbo in Venezuela’s Zulia state and local journalists have confirmed that the ELN has captured territory for their cocaine trade, leading to the displacement and murder of Venezuelan civilians and military personnel. The Venezuelan regime has refused to acknowledge evidence of this activity.
The report concludes that the ELN likely has the support of Venezuelan National Armed Forces. In the state of Táchira, ELN forces are now reportedly involved in the distribution of boxes for the Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP), a state food program.
As well as engaging in illegal practices, the group has also expanded its presence through radio broadcasts, distribution of pamphlets in schools, installation of checkpoints in rural roads and the collection of taxes that have helped the group establish themselves within the country.
Venezuela’s regime has not traditionally had close relations with the ELN, instead opting for close ties with the fellow Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terrorist group during the administration of Hugo Chávez. Last week, three members of the Venezuelan military were killed and another ten injured following an attack in Amazonas.
The Venezuelan regime blamed ELN militants for the attack, claiming that it was retribution for the arrest of a senior ELN leader wanted by Interpol.
“We will find the paramilitaries wherever they are,” Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said in a television address. “For now I say to them: leave Venezuela. There is no space here. There has never been any space here for you.” He also criticized Colombia for being “unable to control its groups, its violence, and its drug trafficking.”
Javier Tarazona, director of the non-governmental organization Networks Foundation, said in an interview with Globovisión that the ELN had entered Venezuela partly because of Colombia’s new conservative President Ivan Duque.
“The presence of the guerrilla in Venezuela has increased its firmness as a result of the peace agreement in Colombia,” he said. “The remainders of the FARC has come to Venezuelan territory, but also with the arrival of a new government to the Republic of Colombia, the ELN has found in Venezuelan territory and in the Venezuelan State authorities that provide both complicity and protection.”