In recent weeks, fighting has broken out between Venezuelan forces and guerrilla fighters from neighboring Colombia. The fighters have long used Venezuela as a base, but Venezuela is now pushing back.
By NPR – John Otis
Jun 11, 2021
Ailsa Chang, Host: Venezuela has been lurching from one disaster to the next. Food shortages and hyperinflation have prompted more than 5 million Venezuelans to flee the country. Its once democratic government has turned authoritarian. And in the most recent crisis, the Venezuelan army has been fighting guerrillas from neighboring Colombia. Reporter John Otis has more.
John Otis, Byline: In this video posted on social media, people scramble for cover as Venezuelan troops clash with Colombian rebels.
Otis: The fighting broke out in March in the Venezuelan state of Apure that borders Colombia. In a TV address, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino vowed to expel the guerrillas.
Otis: “We will not tolerate illegal armed groups in our territory,” he said. Still, the fighting took many people by surprise because Venezuela’s military and Colombia’s Marxist rebels have long been ideological soulmates.
Jeremy McDermott: The toleration of Colombian guerrillas on Venezuelan soil goes all the way back to President Hugo Chavez.
Otis: That’s Jeremy McDermott, co-director of the research group InSight Crime. He says that since 1999, when Hugo Chavez ushered in a socialist revolution, Venezuela allowed the rebels to use its territory in their fight against the Colombian government, which is a U.S. ally. Under Colombia’s 2016 peace agreement, most of the rebels disarmed, but some refused. And many of these guerrillas are thought to be smuggling Colombian cocaine through Venezuela in cahoots with the Venezuelan army. McDermott claims the fighting broke out when one guerrilla faction tried to bypass the Venezuelan military and keep most or all of the cocaine profits.