Overview: In May 2018, for the 13th consecutive year, the Department of State determined, pursuant to section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act, that Venezuela was not cooperating fully with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The country’s porous borders offered a permissive environment to known terrorist groups, including Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents (who remain committed to terrorism notwithstanding the 2016 peace accord with the Colombian government) and the Colombian-origin National Liberation Army (ELN). Financial ties among FARC dissidents, ELN, and other paramilitary groups facilitated public corruption and graft schemes of Venezuelan government officials and members of the armed forces. Of concern, there were reports noting cooperation between FARC dissidents and ELN in the areas of road checkpoints, subsidized food distribution, recruitment of indigenous communities, as well as trafficking of illegal narcotics and gold. Credible reports indicate Venezuela maintained a permissive environment for known terrorist groups. Individuals linked to FARC dissidents and ELN, as well as Hizballah supporters or sympathizers, were present in the country.
2018 Terrorist Incidents: Terrorist incidents in Venezuela reflected ELN’s growing presence and territorial control. There were increased confrontations between ELN, other Colombian and Venezuelan illegal armed gangs, and Venezuelan government forces. According to the NGO InSight Crime, as well as local and international media, ELN was present in Amazonas, Apure, Bolívar, Guárico, Táchira, and Zulia states, extending beyond its historic base in the border zone with Colombia. On November 3, three Venezuelan National Guard (GNB) officers were killed and 10 injured after a confrontation between ELN and GNB in a sparsely populated border region in Amazonas state. Colombian authorities publicly confirmed ELN involvement, assessing that the confrontation was in response to the GNB’s arrest of ELN members, including ELN leader Luis Ortega, who had an INTERPOL Blue Notice (requesting additional information on his identity and whereabouts) for crimes committed in Colombia.
Additionally, on October 13, media reported the “Bochinche Massacre,” in which 16 mineworkers were killed in Tumeremo, in Bolívar state, hundreds of miles from Colombia and a short distance from the Guyana border. According to multiple media sources and Bolívar contacts, the massacre resulted from clashes between the El Coporo criminal organization (a local illegal armed group) and the ELN over control of gold mining areas.
During a nationally televised 81st anniversary celebration of the GNB on August 4, there was an alleged assassination attempt against President Nicolás Maduro by two drones carrying explosives. Government authorities concluded that it was a terrorist attack and blamed the opposition and “ultra-right” groups operating out of Colombia and the United States. The Venezuelan government has used this incident to detain illegally numerous political opponents.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There were no changes to Venezuela’s counterterrorism legislation in 2018.
Some Venezuelan military and civilian agencies perform counterterrorism functions. Within the Venezuelan armed forces, the General Directorate of Military counterintelligence and the Commando Actions Group of the National Guard have primary counterterrorism duties. The Bolivarian National Intelligence Service and the Division of Counterterrorism Investigations in the Scientific, Penal, and Criminal Investigation Corps within the Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace have primary civilian counterterrorism responsibilities. The degree of interagency cooperation and information sharing among agencies is unknown because of a lack of government transparency.
Venezuela’s porous border with Colombia has made the country attractive to FARC dissidents and ELN movements in and out of the country. Border security at ports of entry was vulnerable and susceptible to corruption. Biometric screening is not conducted at Venezuelan ports of entry. There is no automated system to collect API records on commercial flights or to crosscheck flight manifests with passenger disembarkation data.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Venezuela is a member of Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, a FATF-style regional body. Venezuela’s FIU, the National Financial Intelligence Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group.
Venezuela’s existing AML/CFT legal and regulatory framework criminalizes the financing of terrorism and includes requirements to report transactions that qualify as suspicious under the statute. Significant deficiencies remained in the terrorist asset freezing regime, including a lack of adequate procedures to identify and freeze terrorist assets.
For additional information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism: There were no known CVE efforts underway in 2018.
International and Regional Cooperation: Previously, the Venezuelan government participated as official observers in peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC.