Is Colombia’s civil war moving to Venezuela?

There’s an excellent in-depth article on the current situation in Venezuela over at Strategy Page.  You should read the whole thing – it contains far more information than you’ll get from the mainstream media.  Among the nuggets in the article was the fact that Colombian leftist rebels are moving their operations to Venezuela, because it’s a safer area for them to operate than their own country.

There has been an enormous increase in crime, both official (government employees demanding probes for any reason) and unofficial. Gangs are taking control of many areas, often despite opposition from the security forces. Some of these gangs are financed and controlled (or at least directed) by drug cartels moving cocaine to foreign markets via Venezuela (where access to commercial shipping and aviation is much easier if you can afford it).

The most disturbing development during 2018 was the quiet, but deliberate and aggressive move of Colombian leftist rebels (mainly the ELN) into southern Venezuela. The several thousand ELN invaders were well armed, combat experienced, wear uniforms, have a flag and are disciplined. Even the Venezuelan armed forces feared them, especially after several brutal demonstrations by ELN of who was more lethal. ELN was willing to make deals (in effect truces) with the Venezuelan security forces, who could go about their usual business (robbing the population in general and suppressing anti-government activity) while the ELN sought to take control over activities that were illegal but profitable (smuggling, illegal mines and anything drug related). So now two organized armed groups control southern Venezuela; the government security forces and the invading Colombian rebels. In normal times this would not happen but these are not normal times. For over a decade ELN and the much larger FARC had sanctuary agreements with Venezuela. As long as the Colombian rebels behaved, and made payments to Venezuelan officials, they were safe from the Colombian security forces. Over the last few years, the Venezuelan economy has collapsed and so has the ability of the security forces to deal with the invasion of a force like ELN. At the same time ELN had few options in Colombia and expanding into Venezuelan became a realistic plan.

In 2017 the Columbian armed forces had used the threat of ELN being the only target for air strikes (and increased ground efforts) to persuade ELN (a third the size of FARC) to negotiate a peace deal. The government had warned ELN that once the FARC peace deal was agreed to in 2016 and a ceasefire arranged the military would concentrate on ELN and that is what happened in 2018. This proved disastrous for ELN. Rather than risking such a continued confrontation ELN began its first joint (with the government) ceasefire in late 2017. Meanwhile, the FARC peace deal did work and FARC demobilized. But in early 2018 a newly elected Colombian president, who was more conservative than his predecessor (largely because many Colombians disagreed with the generous peace terms FARC got) took over and he had little patience for the ELN refusal to seriously negotiate. With the full attention of the Colombian security forces (who had, in fact, defeated the much larger FARC) the ELN found itself in big trouble. This was because ELN was always more “political” than FARC and many ELN leaders wanted to keep fighting the government. As 2018 went on it became obvious to ELN leaders that staying in Colombia and getting picked apart by the Colombian commandos, air power and the assistance of a largely anti-ELN Colombian population was not viable. Moving much of ELN to Venezuelan was a practical solution, so far.

There’s much more at the linkHighly recommended reading.

The situation in Venezuela is potentially critical not just for that country’s citizens and residents, but also for regional security in central America – all the way to the USA’s southern border.  Latin America is already awash in Venezuelan refugees, and they’re mostly the ones who could scrape together enough to pay their way out of the country.  Those left behind – a much greater number – are desperate.  If things go to hell in a handbasket in Venezuela, they’re going to surge over the borders by the millions, and the nations surrounding that country will not be able to cope.  That surge will displace other populations, too, and the whole lot will wash up around our southern border.  That holds massive implications for Mexico’s stability and US security.

Keep an eye on Venezuela.  What happens there is more important to the USA than many people understand.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *