Venezuela: Colombian incursions, espionage charged

Venezuelan authorities Oct. 30 announced the arrest of eight Colombians and two local residents suspected of paramilitary activities in western T├íchira state near the border between the two countries. Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami said the detained Colombians included a known paramilitary leader. Two firearms were captured with them, he said. “All these people were intimidating the local population and especially threatening local businessmen,” he told state TV. “These people were handing out pamphlets, as the paramilitaries do, saying social cleansing was going to startÔÇöthat is to say murders and disappearances.” (Reuters, Oct. 30)

The arrests came a day after President Hugo Ch├ívez said three men charged with spying for Colombia’s DAS state security agency will be prosecutedÔÇöand accused Washington of complicity in the case. “We have captured officials from the DAS Colombian intelligence spying in Venezuela. They are jailed and we are going to put them on trial,” Ch├ívez said. “Who is behind this? The hand of the United States.” (Reuters, Oct. 29)

A day after the arrests, the Venezuelan government announced the findings of an investigation into the case of 11 members of a Colombian amateur football team were evidently killed and dumped across the border in T├íchira a week earlier. The men were reportedly kidnapped weeks earlier at a football match. Venezuela’s Vice President Ramon Carrizalez announced the government’s findings Nov. 1 that the men were paramilitaries who were part of a plot to destabilize the Caracas regime. Carrizalez warned of growing “paramilitary infiltration” from Colombia. (BBC News, Nov. 1)

See our last posts on Venezuela and Colombia and the paramilitaries.

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