The president of Colombia, Iván Duque, denounced that the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro is harboring terrorists: both guerrilla fighters of the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the “dissidence” of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Venezuelan territory, as well as sponsoring the recruitment of minors.
“In Venezuelan territory Nicolás Maduro, the dictator of Venezuela, is protecting them (the ELN). He is giving them money and is sponsoring the recruitment of children to work in illegal mining in Venezuelan territory,” Duque said in an interview with EFE.
According to Duque, the support that the Maduro regime provides to the ELN has also extended to the “dissidence” of the FARC “because they all end up being the same thing. The Venezuelan dictatorship is protecting not only the leaders of the ELN, but also those dissident ringleaders of the FARC,” he said.
The regime is also protecting several leaders of the FARC who are fugitives from justice. “Iván Márquez”, “Romaña” and alias “El Paisa” are in Venezuelan territory, according to the Colombian president.
Duque said in an interview with RCN News that they are in Venezuela “resuming conversations linked or possibly linked to criminal acts.” Although he did not make the same claim about “Jesus Santrich,” he said that it is possible that the guerrilla leader, who is wanted by Colombia and who has an international arrest warrant issued by Interpol, is there.
Government will formalize request for extradition of the ELN Central Command
After the ELN terrorist attack on the Police Cadet Academy in Bogotá, on January 17, which left 22 people dead, the administration of Iván Duque requested the capture of the leaders of the ELN’s Central Command (Coce), who are on Cuban soil as a result of the negotiations that began with former President Juan Manuel Santos.
At the end of January, Duque reactivated the arrest warrant pending for members of Coce that remain in Havana, but without any result, due to the protocol agreed between the negotiators of Santos and the ELN, where it was established that the negotiation guarantors had to return the parties in question to Colombian soil during the following ten days, after the end of the current cycle of negotiations.
Just six months after the terrorist attack, with the Colombian president refusing to comply with this protocol, the top leaders of the organization are benefiting: “Pablo Beltrán”, “Gabino”, “Pablito” and other Coce members are now running their guerrilla organization from Cuban soil with protection from the Castro dictatorship.
However, according to the High Commissioner for Peace, Miguel Ceballos, the request for the extradition of four members of the Central Command will soon be formalized. Other top targets include “Alirio Sepulveda” and alias “Silvana”.
Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo recently met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and spoke about the Venezuelan regime and its collaboration with the ELN. The Colombian government’s efforts to combat drug trafficking were also acknowledged at the meeting.
Duque added that the ELN has made serious efforts in the realm of recruiting, and many of the criminal attacks against Colombia are being planned from Venezuela, especially in the border region in the Colombian state of Arauca.
What is the ELN doing in Venezuela?
During Álvaro Uribe’s eight years in office, illegal organizations were vigorously pursued by state security forces. In spite of constant attacks by the Colombian Army, Navy, and Air Force, Uribe indicated that it was almost impossible to eliminate them because neighboring countries provided aid and shelter to organizations like the FARC and the ELN.
In Venezuela, the Chavista regime, under both Hugo Chávez and Maduro, has fostered an atmosphere of cooperation with guerrillas and terrorist groups not only in the region, but also internationally, as is the case with Hezbollah. In the event of a military incursion to overthrow the Maduro regime, it is widely suspected that the ELN would be fighting on the front lines to aid the Venezuelan dictatorship.
An investigation by Insight Crime highlights that an ELN presence has been verified in 12 Venezuelan states, and manifest itself mainly through their control of cattle smuggling operations, drug trafficking, illegal mining, and extortion. The military power of the guerrilla group has been on display recently in the case of ELN attacks on Venezuelan soldiers in the state of Amazonas, and the massacre of miners in Bolívar state in 2018.
Surprisingly, at the end of 2018 Maduro argued that Venezuela is a victim of the Colombian armed conflict, urging Colombia to resume dialogues with the ELN guerrillas. However, numerous experts believe that the presence of the ELN is due in part to the mafia state that currently controls Venezuela, and offers them significant aid. Different non-governmental organizations have denounced that the Colombian guerrillas in some territories control the delivery of CLAP food boxes, as well as running radio stations that serve to indoctrinate young people and children.
Maduro’s encourages the incursion of these groups in Venezuelan territory, not only increasing the danger that these guerrillas represent for Colombia, but also allowing them to become a threat to Venezuelans, confident that both the ELN and the FARC are sure to provide him with extra muscle should the need ever arise.