Clashes of guerrilla groups in Colombia leave 23 dead in the border area with Venezuela

At least 23 people died after a clash between dissident groups of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN), in Arauca, a border region with Venezuela, as confirmed by Colombian authorities.

According to Defense Minister Diego Molano, five of the deceased were identified, four of them are of Venezuelan nationality and two have a criminal record for illegally carrying weapons.

“One of those identified is alias ‘El Flaco Fredy’, leader of the FARC dissidents, and on whom two arrest warrants weighed, one for extortion and kidnapping and the other for illegal arms trafficking,” Molano explained Monday to the press.

Preliminary versions indicated that the confrontations were generated by the death of alias “Mazamorra”, head of the ELN, but the authorities say there is no certainty in this regard.

The confrontations began in the Venezuelan municipality of La Victoria, in the state of Apure, according to the minister, for “Criminal income disputes.”

“On the other side of the border [en Venezuela] there is an enormous confrontation between the FARC dissidents against 10 and 28 against a union that occurs between the ELN and the Second Marquetalia, ”Molano added, referring to another faction of the FARC dissidents.

As President Iván Duque said on Monday, behind the homicides “there is this phenomenon of armed groups that are fighting and seeking to assassinate members of their militias and intimidate the civilian population.”

He also pointed out that the groups are taking refuge in Venezuela, after committing crimes. “These groups have been operating at ease in Venezuelan territory with the consent and protection of the dictatorial regime,” he told reporters.

Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López rejected these accusations.

“Who is to blame for the ills of Colombia? Continuing to point out to Venezuela the centuries-old violence brewing in its entrails will never exonerate them until the tortilla is returned and the Colombian oligarchy is replaced by a government of social commitment,” he wrote , in a thread on Twitter.

SOS of citizens

For the Ombudsman’s Office, around 10,000 people are at risk for being in the middle of this armed conflict in the municipalities of Tame, Fortul, Saravena and Arauquita.

“This serious public order situation has also generated forced displacement, we have maintained permanent contact with leaders and with local authorities. We made a call for the activation of contingency plans that allow serving the affected population to safeguard and protect their integrity and life, ”Carlos Camargo, ombudsman, told the media on Monday.

Inhabitants of the place call for the confrontations to stop: “An SOS, a call for the authorities to do something because they are killing us,” said Yuri Marín, a resident of Arauquita, Colombia, to the Voice of america.

The Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (Indepaz) recalls that this territory has been heavily hit by violence and used as a corridor for drug trafficking routes.

Camilo Posso, president of Indepaz, explained to the VOA that the groups “are both in Venezuelan territory and in Colombian territory” and there what they are doing is disputing territories “and this” is unleashing a supremely serious situation. “

He added that there is “a campaign of extortion against the communities, of displacement. People are frightened in the midst of the cross fires and the call made by the community is to stop that war.”

Posso explained that these events already have a history of the last two years, at least, with the reorganization of the FARC dissidents and their incursion to dispute territories with other armed groups in the area.

“These groups are going to weaken, but the population, the tranquility and the prospect of peace enter a path of anxiety at the beginning of this year 2022,” he added.

At the end of an operational meeting held in the capital of the department of Arauca, the Defense Minister announced that 600 soldiers would arrive in Arauca to protect the security of this department, by order of President Iván Duque.

He also announced the increase in rewards of up to 300 million pesos (73,500 dollars, approximately) for those who provide information that allows for the capture of leaders of armed groups.

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