After 20 years under the regimes of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro the Colombia-Venezuela border region has degenerated into a “no man’s land”, where the war between paramilitary and terrorist gangs is a battle for daily bread, and a war they wage under the complacent or helpless gaze of the authorities .
One of the main perpetrators of the frightening situation at the border is Freddy Bernal, a policeman who holds a “night-time” unofficial position as “Protector of Tachira” usurping functions of the government of Tachira State.
An Infobae report reveals how under the complacent eye of the regime, armed Chavista groups have joined the Colombian guerrillas operating from within Venezuelan territory. This includes the National Liberation Army (ELN) and Los Pelusos; armed groups that not only handle smuggling and management of the local economy, but also play key roles in human trafficking.
Although Bernal promised to deal with these armed groups, he stands there with his arms crossed, as the Venezuelan Armed Forces is not prepared to deal with bloodthirsty criminal organizations, well trained and willing to die and kill.
The border area has become a restless and violent zone where a war between guerrilla groups has broken out over power and territory. From there, these groups began to commit massacres: they decapitate people related to the military and police forces of Venezuela, while exercising their misdeeds.
“One of the dreaded criminal groups on the border calls itself La Línea, which together with Los Urabeños and other bands, has faced supporters of Chavismo, while Colombian organized crime figure “El Paisa” has threatened Bernal,” details the Infobae report.
And it seems that armed gangs arrived at the border to dispute power with the ELN and the Chavista groups and now there is a war between criminal gangs that the regime does not know how to stop.
Between July 24 and 28, Maduro announced an alleged “Liberation Campaign” on the border with the intention of mobilizing heavily armed troops to control and contain the situation.
“The truth is that what was proposed was to put a sizeable contingent of the (Venezuelan) Armed Forces at the border to confront the paramilitaries who had already taken over the area, when the guerrillas and the Chavista groups were unable to stop them,” said Infobae.
Recently a vicious massacre left twelve dead in a confrontation on the Colombian-Venezuelan border. The incident was attributed to the band Los Rastrojos.
The police in Puerto Santander, in the state of Norte de Santander, Colombia, reported hearing shots in the early hours of June 18 from the Venezuelan side of the Grita River. Shortly after, they intercepted a raft in which two men were trying to cross from Venezuela.
The men were captured and given medical attention for gunshot wounds. They were identified as the head of Los Rastrojos Jhon Jairo Durán Contreras, alias “El Menor”, and a bodyguard. Both wore military uniforms and carried heavy weapons.
Franklyn Duarte, an opposition deputy in the National Assembly said through his Twitter account: “We have a total of 12 killed, a product of confrontation between irregular groups. There are more than 20 wounded. We are concerned that the security forces do not act as required by the constitution and laws,” he said.
According to Insight Crime, in the days after the massacre, there was an unprecedented exodus of at least 1,000 Venezuelans from Boca de Grita in Venezuela to Puerto Santander in Colombia, fearful of the consequences of this new war between gangs.
In recent months the conflict has focused on the disputed drug trafficking routes in the Venezuelan town of Ureña, Tachira; while the area to the north known as Guaramito remains under the domination of a fragile alliance between Los Rastrojos and the Popular Liberation Army (EPL).
Guaramito, which is a key transit point for migrants and illegal goods, is also a gasoline smuggling center that represents one of the most lucrative criminal economies in that border region. The Rastrojos have had a base of operations in Boca de Grita since at least since 2018, and from there they coordinate their gasoline smuggling operations in collaboration with elements of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB).
Freddy Bernal was entrusted with the mission of bringing order to the border, however, in the years he has been acting as the alleged “Protector of Táchira”, he has dedicated himself to extorting merchants and businessmen from the region, to breaking into markets in broad daylight to demand “fair prices”, and to taking prisoners of employees of shops and stores, while paramilitary units openly commit crimes.