Venezuela: Pro-government groups (also known as colectivos), including the Tupamaros; information on their areas of operation, objectives, activities, and relationship with the government, including instances of collusion; whether these groups operate under a unified command and the nature of cooperation among the different cells throughout the country (2015-May 2017) [VEN105785.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Overview

Sources describe colectivos as

  • "militant grassroots groups" (Reuters 13 Feb. 2014);
  • "groups of armed civilians close to the government" (AI 24 Feb. 2014);
  • "pro-government, pro-Chavista groups" (CBC 1 Mar. 2014);
  • "armed, progovernment gangs" (Human Rights Watch Oct. 2016); or
  • "progovernment militant grassroots groups" (BBC 25 Apr. 2017).

According to BBC,

[m]embers of the colectivos argue that they are defending President Maduro's socialist revolution from attacks from elitist and imperialist sectors of society. But critics say their most hardline members are little more than thugs who intimidate anyone who thinks differently (BBC 20 Apr. 2017).

Similarly, according to Reuters, the colectivos "call themselves community groups but … the opposition accuses [them] of being violent paramilitary wings of the ruling Socialist Party" (Reuters 19 Apr. 2017).

However, according to TeleSUR, a Latin American multimedia platform based in Venezuela (TeleSUR n.d.) [1], colectivos are community groups that are in charge of [translation] "implementing, executing, organizing and administrating government strategies in their areas of presence" (TeleSUR 13 Feb. 2014). TeleSUR further explains that colectivos also discuss governmental actions "in such a way that the people themselves are in charge of evaluating the progress of the Revolution" (TeleSUR 13 Feb. 2014). Similarly, a 2014 article by Inter Press Service (IPS), a global news agency focused on "raising the voices of the South and civil society on issues of development, globalisation, human rights and the environment" (IPS n.d.), states that "[o]pposition groups call the civilian groups that oppose them … 'Tupamaros' or 'colectivos' without distinction, and this language has spread through the cities where [2014 anti-government] protests have multiplied" (IPS 7 Mar. 2014). However, the same source cites "research by NGOs and the media" as stating that "the vast majority of colectivos are peaceful neighbourhood groups that support the government, carrying out the government's social work programmes or developing their own projects" (IPS 7 Mar. 2014).

According to a report on organized crime in the Americas, Insight Crime, a foundation that studies organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean (Insight Crime n.d.), the term colectivos can refer to

any community organization with a shared purpose, ranging from neighbourhood groups that coordinate social events or share a particular hobby to … militant collectives accused of attacking anti-government protesters. (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 85)

Similarly, Human Rights Watch states that "the term 'colectivos' is also used … to refer to a wide range of social organizations that support and, in some cases, help implement government policies. These include environmental, feminist, labor, and educational groups," the "vast majority" of which do not engage in violence (Human Rights Watch Oct. 2016, 23). An Al Jazeera article states that not all colectivos are armed, and cites a member of the colectivos as stating that the groups include "gay rights activists, environmentalists, anarchists and women's rights campaigners" that are linked by "their desire to defend the revolution" (Al Jazeera 24 Feb. 2014).

According to Reuters, "[t]here are few clear ways of identifying colectivos" (Reuters 19 Apr. 2017). According to research by Insight Crime, the colectivos vary in form and structure, with the "armed territorial colectivos" (colectivos territoriales armados) operating and controlling specific areas, and "motorized bands" (bandas motorizad[a]s) with less structure but that receive full government support (Insight Crime 28 Oct. 2016).

According to Al Jazeera,

[t]he Tupamaros, the Simon Bolivar Coordination, and the Alexis Vive movement are some of the largest [colectivos], but there are more than 100 similar groups operating across the country. They are often plagued by splits and divisions … and their structures and membership remain reasonably fluid. (Al Jazeera 24 Feb. 2014)

In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a Lecturer in political science and Latin American studies at the University of Toronto, who specializes in, and has published articles on, Venezuelan politics, stated that "membership between colectivos is fluid" (Lecturer 10 May 2017). According to the same source,

[i]n terms of overall command, there is no umbrella organization that controls all the colectivos. There is no national coordinator. The individual colectivos have various degrees of cohesiveness and discipline.

In terms of command structure, there is no overarching structure that unifies both the armed, confrontational colectivos, like the Tupamaros, with the neighbourhood level, more communal type of colectivos. (Lecturer 10 May 2017)

Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

1.1 Tupamaros

Al Jazeera reports that the Tupamaros [Movimiento Tupamaro, Movimiento Revolucionario Tupamaro, MRT] were founded in the 1980s and were "inspired by Marxist rebellions across Latin America" (Al Jazeera 8 June 2013). According to TeleSUR, the Tupamaros are a political organization with a Marxist-Leninist leaning who are [translation] "perhaps the most well-known Venezuelan colectivo" (TeleSUR 13 Feb. 2014). Al Jazeera reports that the Tupamaros "could be described either as a 'politicised gang', or a 'community protection squad', depending on one's point of view" (Al Jazeera 8 June 2013). Al Jazeera also reports that the Tupamaros "are … one of the most prominent armed collectives" (Al Jazeera 24 Feb. 2014). The Lecturer stated that the Tupamaros are the "oldest and biggest colectivo and they have the greatest national reach" (Lecturer 10 May 2017).

Al Jazeera indicates that the Tupamaros "began largely as a crime-fighting organisation in [the] 23 January [neighbourhood] and other poor neighbourhoods" (Al Jazeera 8 June 2013). Similarly, in a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a Senior Analyst of International Crisis Group who is based in Caracas stated that the Tupamaros originated from the 23 January neighbourhood in Caracas and that they have come to dominate areas of that slum district (International Crisis Group 5 May 2017). Al Jazeera similarly states that the group "maintains a degree of order in the 23 January neighbourhood" (Al Jazeera 8 June 2013).

According to TeleSUR, the Tupamaros supported Hugo Chávez for the 1998 presidential elections, and once he was elected, the group supported his ideology and the changes that were implemented (TeleSUR 13 Feb. 2014). According to Al Jazeera, the Tupamaros are "allegedly working with Venezuela's socialist government and dealing ruthlessly with opponents" (Al Jazeera 8 June 2013). According to the Lecturer,

the Tupamaros have operated in the past as an electoral party and ran campaigns for office. They have become fairly aligned with the state, especially the spokesperson of the Tupamaros, José Pinto. The Tupamaros dissolved as a political party and joined the United Socialist Party of Venezuela [Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV]. They still hold meetings, though, so their flag is still around. (Lecturer 10 May 2017)

According to Al Jazeera,

[t]o Venezuela's middle class and some government supporters, the Tupamaros are simply thugs, intent on undermining democracy and fighting a bloody class war through intimidation, kidnapping and other crimes. To their supporters, they are the front line of the rough justice practiced in neighbourhoods where the police are too scared, too inefficient, or too corrupt to inspire public trust. (Al Jazeera 8 June 2013)

Al Jazeera further reports that "[m]embers of the Tupamaros said they received guerrilla training from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) (Al Jazeera 8 June 2013). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Infobae, an Argentinian news website, reports that the Tupamaros typically move around on motorcycles and keep their faces covered (Infobae 13 Feb. 2014). The same source adds that the Tupamaros have been accused of attacking businesses and buildings that they considered to be [translation] "oligarchical and bourgeois" and that, in order to control the drug business, they have killed drug dealers and distributers that tried to enter in their areas of influence (Infobae 13 Feb. 2014). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

A report by the Coalition of Organizations of the Forum to Promote Life (Coalición de Organizaciones del Foro por la Vida), a platform consisting of 20 nongovernmental human rights organizations in Venezuela (Coalición de Organizaciones del Foro por la Vida Feb. 2014, 4), explains that in Mérida, members of the Tupamaros respond to any demonstration of public protest by committing acts of vandalism, destroying property, and assaulting with firearms (Coalición de Organizaciones del Foro por la Vida Feb. 2014, 12). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

El Nacional, a Venezuelan newspaper, cites José Pinto, the Secretary General of the Tupamaros, as stating that some Tupamaro members have permission to carry weapons like deputies, some city councillors, and those in managerial positions of the political branch, but that [translation] "his people were peaceful and committed to the law" and only those that have permission or authorization carry firearms (El Nacional 9 Mar. 2017). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. Areas of Operation

According to Al Jazeera, the colectivos operate "in the hillside slums around the capital as well as some rural areas" (Al Jazeera 24 Feb. 2014). The New York Times reports that the colectivos "control vast territory across Venezuela, financed in some cases by extortion, black-market food and parts of the drug trade as the government turns a blind eye in exchange for loyalty" (The New York Times 22 Apr. 2017). The same source cites Fermín Mármol, a criminologist at the University of Santa María in Caracas, as stating that the colectivos "control 10 percent of towns and cities in Venezuela" (The New York Times 22 Apr. 2017). According to the Senior Analyst of International Crisis Group, the colectivos operate increasingly across Venezuela, but usually in urban areas (International Crisis Group 5 May 2017).

The Senior Analyst of International Crisis Group indicated that there are "all sorts of estimates" of the number of colectivos and that "estimates run into the hundreds but that there are also estimates that indicate that there may be several thousand groups" (International Crisis Group 5 May 2017).

According to Reuters, the colectivos

are scattered around the nation and probably have only a few thousand members. The dozen or so best-known are all based in the colectivos' heartland: the [23 January neighbourhood] near the center of Caracas.

The [23 January neighbourhood] is home to about 100,000 people. Security is almost entirely in the hands of the colectivos. Some set up armed roadblocks at night, communicating by walkie-talkie, stopping cars and questioning passengers. (Reuters 13 Feb. 2014)

According to IPS, some of the colectivos "arose in the [23 January] public housing estate in the west of Caracas" and "they each control small territories" (IPS 7 Mar. 2014).

A 2017 article written by Yira Yoyotte, who is described to be a journalist for the National Assembly (Asamblea Nacional, AN) in 2008 (Universidad Católica Andrés Bello n.d.), indicates that in the 23 January neighbourhood the following colectivos operate "publicly": La Piedrita, Alexis Vive, Tupamaros and Carapaica (Yoyotte 25 Apr. 2017). The Senior Analyst of International Crisis Group explained that there are approximately a dozen rival colectivos in the 23 January neighbourhood, including Alexis Vive and La Piedrita, and that there are sometimes shootouts (International Crisis Group 5 May 2017). Similarly, without providing further details, the Lecturer provided the opinion that the Tupamaros and La Piedrita "hate each other" (Lecturer 10 May 2017). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Yoyotte indicates that, according to information published by national and international press agencies, just in Cotiza, a neighbourhood in Caracas, there are "at least" a hundred groups of colectivos (Yoyotte 25 Apr. 2017). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to The New York Times article, in a social housing area built by President Chávez called Ciudad Miranda, "[r]esidents say the area is now run by [colectivos]" (The New York Times 26 Jan. 2016). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to the 2014 report by Coalition of Organizations for the Forum to Promote Life, the city of Mérida sees frequent activities of the colectivos (Coalición de Organizaciones del Foro por la Vida Feb. 2014, 12). Similarly, the Senior Analyst of International Crisis Group stated that Mérida is another city known for colectivos, and that there are Tupamaros and other colectivos there (International Crisis Group 5 May 2017). According to the Lecturer, "colectivo strongholds include the [23 January] neighbourhood in Caracas and La Chamita in Mérida" (Lecturer 10 May 2017).

3. Activities

According to a 2014 article by Reuters,

[f]rom running security in their communities to drumming up support for government anti-poverty efforts, [the colectivos] function as an informal extension of the Socialist Party, frequently blurring the lines between partisan activism and community service.

They are a key part of government's electoral "machinery", and they can move voters at the last minute to help sway close races and are sometimes tarred by critics as poll station thugs who intimidate opponents.

The colectivos point to their bookshops, study groups, summer camps for children, and coffee mornings for pensioners as genuine services to their communities. They frequent government marches and rallies to keep opposition meddlers away. (Reuters 13 Feb. 2014)

However, Insight Crime states that according to their research, "many of the country's colectivos are becoming criminalized and violent, extorting the communities they often claim to protect" (Insight Crime 28 Oct. 2016). Similarly, the Senior Analyst of International Crisis Group indicated that the colectivos have grown in power and influence, and in many cases have become linked to organized crime, and have evolved into "partly criminal organizations" (International Crisis Group 5 May 2017). The same source further stated that the colectivos have been supplied with weapons from the government and that they have received training in urban warfare, including by the Cubans, Colombian guerrillas, and the Basque Homeland and Freedom (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, ETA) group [2] (International Crisis Group 5 May 2017). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The Senior Analyst of International Crisis Group further indicated that "the colectivos act as enforcers in the barrios (neighbourhoods) and in general, … act to intimidate the population to discourage them from doing anything the government would dislike" (International Crisis Group 5 May 2017). The Senior Analyst added that

[i]n their present form, the so-called colectivos (which are better understood as para-police groups incorporated into the police, military and intelligence networks) may not necessarily be derived from the original political activists. Some analysts say many are simply criminals. (International Crisis Group 5 May 2017)

According to the Lecturer,

a lot of colectivos have a territorial base, especially in the barrios, like the 23 [January neighbourhood] and the West of Caracas, as well as in Petare in the east, where they have been able to kick out the police. In the past, colectivos have been able to physically remove drug dealers and police authorities from their territories.

Where the colectivos have their territorial bases, they function as the de facto law enforcers. If one is caught dealing drugs or abusing one's spouse, the colectivos issue out quick justice. They enforce their own code. Sometimes the laws are created by the communities and sometimes they are imposed by the colectivos. (Lecturer 10 May 2017)

The Lecturer further provided the opinion that "there is no sustained harassment by the colectivos against every-day civilians" (Lecturer 10 May 2017).

According to The New York Times, "[t]he colectivo bands have been accused of repeated attacks on journalists covering their activities in the streets" (The New York Times 22 Apr. 2017). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3.1 2014 Protests

Latin American Newsletters (LatinNews), a London-based news source that was founded to provide "expert political, economic, and security analysis on Latin America and the Caribbean" (LatinNews n.d.), reports that in early 2014,

a series of opposition marches and demonstrations spread throughout the country, commencing as protests over high levels of crime, but rapidly widening out to include complaints over inflation and food shortages. … The protests were broken up by the security forces and by armed [Socialist Party] supporters (operating in groups known as colectivos), leading to a series of violent clashes in which an estimated 43 people were killed and some 3,000 were arrested. (LatinNews Aug. 2016, italics in original)

Similarly, according to the Miami Herald, a Miami-based newspaper, "[i]n 2014, protests calling for Maduro's exit were met with violence. … Groups of armed, pro-government civilians, known as the colectivos were frequently involved" (Miami Herald 25 May 2016, italics in original). Insight Crime states that in 2014, "[a]fter a televised order, [the colectivos] moved against protesters in major cities that were demanding Maduro's resignation" (Insight Crime 14 Mar. 2016). According to CBC, in March 2014, "violent confrontations between protesters, the riot police, the National Guard and the colectivos" occurred (CBC 27 Mar. 2014). Amnesty International (AI) reported that colectivos perpetrated attacks "with impunity" during the "pro-and anti-government protests" in February 2014 (AI 24 Feb. 2014). Al Jazeera cites a former leader of the Left Revolutionary Movement, a former left-wing guerrilla, as stating that the colectivos intimidated "government critics, including those on the left," during the 2014 unrest (Al Jazeera 24 Feb. 2014). According to Insight Crime report, "during the anti-government protests [in early 2014], collectives were accused of murdering protestors" (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 87). However, the same report cites David Smilde, a Senior Fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), as stating that "while the collectives were blamed for much of the violence" during the the protests in the first quarter of 2014, "they were likely only responsible for a small part" (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 87). An article by Radio France internationale (RFI) on the 2014 protests in Venezuela cites the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs as stating that

[translation]

[i]n the past, there were collectives that were created to serve the defense system against delinquency and police repression. That was in the past. In the last fifteen years of the Bolivarian revolution, these groups were disarmed and reintegrated in society.

Today, I can assure you that none of the collectives linked to the Bolivarian revolution are responsible for the deaths of the last few months. (RFI 24 Apr. 2014)

3.2 After the 2014 Protests

According to the US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016, "NGOs and political activists cited a widespread fear of repression due to the militarization of the country and the increasing activities of progovernment gangs, ('colectivos,') against demonstrations" (US 3 Mar. 2017, 22). According to the same source,

[a]lthough the government did not release statistics on extrajudicial killings, NGOs reported that national, state, and municipal police entities, as well as the armed forces and government-supported paramilitary groups, known as "colectivos," carried out such killings [in 2016]. (US 3 Mar. 2017, 2)

With reporting from Reuters, an article in The Guardian reports that on 9 June 2016, "Venezuelan opposition lawmakers said they were attacked by pro-government groups as they tried to enter the electoral board headquarters … to demand a recall referendum against President Nicolás Maduro" (The Guardian 9 June 2016).

The New York Times cites Venezuelans as stating that "[f]rom labor disputes with unions to student demonstrations on university campuses, colectivos are appearing almost anywhere the government sees citizens getting out of line" (The New York Times 22 Apr. 2017). According to the same source, in April 2017 "hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Caracas and other cities demanding elections" and colectivos "appear to be playing a key role in repressing dissent" (The New York Times 22 Apr. 2017). The same source indicates that alongside security forces, the "enforcers from the colectivos engage in fiercer and often deadly intimidation" (The New York Times 22 Apr. 2017). An Associated Press (AP) article reports that "[o]pposition leaders have blamed [colectivos] for a number of deaths" during the 2017 protests" (AP 25 Apr. 2017). According to The Economist, "[a]t least 29 people have died [between March 2017 and 27 April 2017] in the worst unrest in three years. Many of these were killed by … colectivos" (The Economist 27 Apr. 2017). The Senior Analyst of the International Crisis Group similarly stated that colectivos "allegedly killed protestors" in the 2017 protests (International Crisis Group 5 May 2017). According to the Lecturer, "in the 2017 protests, there are bands of motorizados (people on motorcycles that are part of colectivos) harassing the opposition" (Lecturer 10 May 2017). However, an article by Últimas Noticias, a Venezuelan news website, cites a representative of the Great Patriotic Pole (Gran Polo Patriótico, GPP) [3] to the National Assembly as stating that although the opposition seeks to implicate the colectivos for the violence that occurred in April 2017, opposition members themselves have infiltrated their own people with masks to make them believe that they are organized colectivos (Últimas Noticias 17 Apr. 2017). Further and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to the article by Yoyotte, the National Assembly in April 2017 voted to establish a special commission to investigate the acts of colectivos during the 2017 protests (Yoyotte 25 Apr. 2017). Further and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

4. Relationship with the Government

According to The New York Times,

[e]xperts say the colectivos date to the early days of Mr. Chávez, who originally conceived them as social organizations to advance his vision of a Socialist revolution to transform Venezuela's poor neighborhoods. Many had their own names, flags and uniforms. The government eventually handed them arms and security training as well, deploying them as a separate militia. (The New York Times 22 Apr. 2017)

Sources categorize colectivos as "paramilitary" groups, armed and trained by the government (Reuters 13 Feb. 2014; Yoyotte 25 Apr. 2017). Jane's Intelligence Review states that

[t]he government is increasingly concerned about the ruling PSUV suffering a major electoral defeat and is currently resorting to the deployment of [colectivos] to intimidate the opposition. … They have in the past been deployed to violently contain opposition protestors, and are currently being mobilised to dissuade the [Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática)] from campaigning in areas which the PSUV perceives to be pro-government strongholds. (Jane's Intelligence Review 26 Nov. 2015)

According to The New York Times, experts who have studied colectivos indicate that colectivo members are "civilians with police training, [and] armed by the government" (The New York Times 22 Apr. 2017). The Senior Analyst of International Crisis Group indicated that "colectivos are used by the government and are increasingly integrated, to some extent, into the police and intelligence services. They carry radios and are given instructions by the government" (International Crisis Group 5 May 2017).

However, according to Insight Crime, "[t]he murky nature of the collectives and their ambiguous relationship with the government make it difficult to determine exactly how much influence they wield. Part of the problem is that the collectives [are not] homogeneous" (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 85). The same source further states that "among the armed collectives," "there are differences in … their relationship to the government" (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 85). The same source cites Alejandro Velasco, a professor of Latin American studies at New York University who has done research on social movements in Venezuela, as stating that "while the existing narrative on collectives is that they have a 'very strong, well-organized and structured collusion' with the state, the reality is more complex" (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 85).

The Insight Crime report further states that

[t]here are some collectives, like the Tupamaros, who have formal links to the government and even run their own political party. The Tupamaros had close ties to the Caracas' former Mayor Juan Barreto, who appointed a leader of the group as the city's deputy director of public safety, and recruited other members to serve on the metropolitan police force. (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 85)

The same report cites Alejandro Velasco as stating that "other collectives, like the Coordinadora Simon Bolivar group limit their formal contact with the government to soliciting funding for community projects" (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 85). The source adds that a "third category of collectives maintain even more informal ties with government institutions, but even so, individual members often have access to people in power through their work in ministry security details or as bodyguards for public officials" (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 85). Al Jazeera cites a state official who trains Venezuelan security forces who spoke on condition of anonymity as stating that some members of the collectives "now work as security operatives in the Caracas mayor's office or in other government departments" (Al Jazeera 24 Feb. 2014).

4.1 Resources and Financial Support

According to Insight Crime, "it is difficult to determine what the role the government has played in arming and funding [colectivos] and up to what point their activities will be tolerated" (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 86). The Insight Crime report cites Alejandro Velasco as stating that colectivos

receive government funding through both formal and informal channels, including slush funds the government doles out to different sectors, which collectives can access through direct or indirect petitions. In some cases, the funding is obtained even less formally, with collectives relying on personal ties between members and government officials to access resources. (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 86)

The 2014 Insight Crime report adds that

[r]egardless of how [the colectivos] obtain their weapons, the fact remains that while the government has stated that only official security forces can carry guns in defense of the state, it has never forced the [colectivos] to disarm. As a result, some [colectivos] have amassed impressive arsenals that include automatic rifles, submachine guns, fragmentation grenades, and teargas canisters. (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 86)

The same source states that "[w]hile at times the government has attempted to rein in the collectives, it has never pushed to fully disarm them and, according to some critics, has largely allowed them to act with impunity" (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 88).

According to the Lecturer, "the government certainly gives resources to the colectivos, including the Tupamaros, which help them operate, including loans for their motorcycles or funds to lease a building" (Lecturer 10 May 2017).

4.2 Tensions with State Authorities

Insight Crime states that "[d]espite the role state institutions play in supporting the collectives, either formally or informally, the government also appears to see these groups -- at times -- as a liability" (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 87). The same source cites Alejandro Valesco as stating that the

police and collectives are engaged in a 'historic struggle over who has legitimate control over the monopoly of violence in the state,' which has led to a situation in which collectives perceive the police as enemies and police view the collectives as 'usurpers'. (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 87)

According to The New York Times,

[a]s the [colectivos] became more powerful, they exerted their own influence independent of the government, most notably in controlling organized crime like drug trafficking in Caracas barrios.

Their power was so great that some even clashed with the police in 2014, part of an effort to oust an interior minister who had sought to curb them. More recently, others have fought deadly shootouts with soldiers in military operations to stop organized crime. (The New York Times 22 Apr. 2017).

Similarly, the Insight Crime indicates that

[c]ollectives have … clashed with security forces on numerous occasions. Many collectives started out as self-defense groups created to protect their neighbourhoods from violence perpetrated by the police and criminal actors. As a result, there is a great deal of animosity between security forces and the armed collectives. (Insight Crime 24 Nov. 2014, 87)

According to a 2016 article by Insight Crime, the colectivos "have been involved in territorial street battles with state forces such as the National Guard and their relationships with government forces vary and change" (Insight Crime 28 Oct. 2016).

According to the Lecturer, "there is a fraught relationship between many colectivos and the government" (Lecturer 10 May 2017). However, the same source provided the opinion that many colectivos, including the Tupamaros, have given unequivocal support to the government in recent years (Lecturer 10 May 2017).

Further and corroborating information on tensions and clashes between the state authorities and colectivos could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Notes

[1] TeleSUR is a "24-hour news network operated by the Venezuelan government" (The New York Times 30 Jan. 2015). According to MercoPress, a news agency focused on "delivering news related to the Mercosur trade and political bloc, and member countries" (MercoPress n.d.), TeleSUR "presents itself as a leftist alternative to mainstream media coverage of Latin America" and was launched in 2005 "with funding from six regional governments aligned with Venezuela, including Cuba and Bolivia" (MercoPress 29 Mar. 2016).

[2] ETA is a group that sought independence for a region spanning across northern Spain and south-west France (BBC 8 Apr. 2017; Al Jazeera 18 Mar. 2017).

[3] The GPP is an electoral alliance that was formed to "exclusively" support Chávez's reelection in 2012 (PHW 2015). The GPP includes the following parties: the Communist party (Partido Comunista, PCV), the Fatherland for All (Patria para Todos), the Party of Networks (el partido Redes), and the PSUV (Infobae 9 Mar. 2017).

References

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Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Associate Professor in the Department of Politics of Drexel University;

Transparencia Venezuela; Washington Office on Latin America.

Internet sites, including: AVN; CEPAZ; Chicago Tribune; ecoi.net; El Universal; Freedom House; Globovision; Haaretz; Institute for War and Peace Reporting; International Commision of Jurists; IRIN; Martí Noticias; PSUV; Radio Nacional de Venezuela; Radio Free Europe; START National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism; Today Venezuela; Tupamaro; UN – Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Refworld, ReliefWeb, UN Women; UPR Info.