Following multiple reports of Venezuelan soldiers allegedly sexually abusing underaged Colombian girls while deporting them from the country, a young man who was forced to leave his home on the border of both countries claims a group of soldiers molested him after forcefully tearing him away from his family.
The man, whose identity is being kept secret for security reasons, told his story to a Colombian radio station this week. He is a Colombian national who lived close to the border on the Venezuelan side, and claims he was packing his belongings, hoping to leave for Colombia before authorities forced him out. “I was almost finished packing my things when the National Bolivarian Guard arrived,” he explains. “They took my things, tied me up, took me with them and … threw me on the floor.”
The man claims he was beaten with rifles repeatedly. “They began to hit me in the ribs, the legs, the back and, later, a soldier told me he was going to ‘take’ me,” he explains. “He lowered my pants, took out his genitals and rubbed them on my backside and told other soldiers to touch me.” The soldiers accused the man of being a “paramilitary” and forced him to wear a paramilitary shirt.
While authorities have not proven the testimony, it matches multiple reports of similar behavior towards women chronicled by Colombian officials. “The Nation’s Attorney General Office has knowledge of sexual abuse of girls by members of [Venezuela’s] Bolivarian National Guard,” Attorney General for Child and Adolescent Issues Ilva Myriam Hoyos Castañeda said Monday. She noted they have received “more than one report” of underaged girls and women receiving sexual abuse before arriving in Colombia.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro ordered the deportation of all Colombian citizens from the Venezuelan border, claiming that the region was swarming with “right-wing paramilitaries” who were plotting his assassination. “I have proof of a plan showing how, from Bogotá, they are plotting to kill me,” Maduro said this week, claiming Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was personally involved in the conspiracy. Santos has categorically rejected the charge–which Maduro has also leveled at American Vice President Joe Biden–as absurd. “No– a thousand times, no!” Santos wrote on Twitter:
¡Quién puede imaginar que desde Bogotá, con anuencia de mi gobierno, se planee atentar contra vida del Presidente Maduro! No. ¡Mil veces no!
— Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) September 2, 2015
Santos delivered a speech on Tuesday, warning that his government is pursuing the possibility of bringing the Venezuelan government to the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity. The Rome Statute that created the court prohibits sexual violence and mass, arbitrary deportations.
Venezuela’s representative to the Organization of American States, Roy Chaderton, has urged Colombia not to bring such charges and settle the dispute “among family.” He stated, “We doubt that there will be satisfaction with a tour of 100 international organizations,” adding, “We have always resolved problems as family, directly, this is the rational way,” he argued. He called an international campaign “a waste.”
Chaderton has previously come under fire for joking about Venezuelan soldiers shooting unarmed protesters, claiming the sound of a bullet going through the head of an anti-Chavista is different than that of a socialist because their heads are “empty.”
Venezuelan National Assembly President, second-in-command, and alleged drug lord Diosdado Cabello sounded a far less diplomatic tone Wednesday on his television show, accusing Santos of promoting “hatred” for Venezuela and inspiring “the same fear they [Colombians in Venezuela] felt when they lived in Colombia because of the discourse used by their government.”