How Venezuelan authorities address Colombian FARC guerrilla activity in Venezuela; role of the Direccion de Investigaciones de los Servicios de Inteligencia y Prevencion (DISIP) and the Centro de Investigaciones Cientificas y Criminalisticas Policiales (CICP) in addressing FARC activity in Venezuela; state protection and internal flight alternative available to individuals who face harassment from FARC (2001-2003) [VEN42081.E]

The information that follows adds to that provided in VEN38028.E of 23 November 2001, VEN36776.E of 1 May 2001 and earlier Responses. In addition to these, Country Reports 2002, available at Regional Documentation Centres, refers to Colombian guerrilla activities in Venezuela in section 1.b, and to the issue of availability of protection for Colombians in Venezuela in section 2.d. VEN38622.E of 26 February 2002 also refers to the situation of Colombians in Venezuela.

Specific references to the direct involvement of the Direccion de Investigaciones de los Servicios de Inteligencia y Prevencion (DISIP) and the Centro de Investigaciones Cientificas y Criminalisticas Policiales (CICP) security agencies in investigating Colombian guerrillas could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, a March 2003 report cites Venezuelan intelligence agents who, in referring to possible Arab terrorist group activities, say that keeping track of terrorist suspects has been given a low priority by the current government (The Economist 15 Mar. 2003). The same report adds that the Venezuelan government has refused to define the FARC as a terrorist group, and that the president "has declared Venezuela 'neutral' in the conflict between Colombia's democratic government and its drug-funded rebels" (ibid.).

The report also indicates that the Venezuelan government's has refused to agree to joint anti-guerrilla operations with Colombia along their porous common border (ibid.). Venezuela's army chief reportedly responded to the Colombian president's declaration that guerrillas would be pursued by Colombian forces anywhere, by saying that Venezuelan forces would push across the border any rebels who cross it; however, a former Venezuelan army general has stated that Colombian guerrillas have three camps established inside Venezuelan territory (ibid.).

Finally, the report quotes officials from Colombia and Venezuela as saying that FARC guerrillas "use Venezuela for supplies and as a transport corridor, as well as extorting funds from its ranchers," and adds that President Chavez "has downgraded border security" (ibid.).

Earlier in March 2003, Venezuela was accused by the president of a Colombian mayoral association of harbouring FARC leaders and providing them with the same conditions they enjoyed in the demilitarized zone they had occupied in Colombia until February 2002 (AFP 4 Mar. 2003). The mayors' leader based his group's allegation on information gathered from border communities, while Agence France Presse, in corroborating the mayor's accusation, quotes sources close to the Venezuelan government as saying that local authorities on the Venezuelan side of the Colombia-Venezuela border allow guerrillas to rest and purchase weapons in their territory (ibid.).

A more recent article says that there are frequent reports from ranchers in three south-western states of Venezuela, complaining that they have to pay "war taxes" to the FARC, as well as to a rival Colombian paramilitary organization (IPS 1 Aug. 2003). The article also reports on the existence of a group named the Bolivarian Liberation Forces in Venezuela, which the Venezuelan opposition press and Colombian media maintain are "a Venezuelan branch of the FARC, and train as a militia to support the Chavez government" (ibid.). This alleged affiliation to the FARC, however, has been denied in communiqués by the FBL and the FARC (ibid.). In reference to an FBL-FARC link, a Venezuelan socialist legislator is quoted as saying that "'a guerrilla war is waged to overthrow a government, not to defend it'," and adding that "'what may be happening is tolerance from the authorities for these illegal militias'" (ibid.).

The article goes on to state that the Colombia-Venezuela border is the scene of a number of major crimes3/4among them, those carried out by guerrilla and paramilitary groups (ibid.). According to the article, political analysts now speak of a "third state'" along the border of Colombia andVenezuela, where authorities from Colombia and Venezuela are failing to impose law and order (ibid.).

Another recent report mentioning FARC operations refers first to Colombian paramilitary activities in Venezuelan territory (Latinamerica Press 13 Aug. 2003). Venezuelan forces apparently attacked and conducted air bombing raids against the paramilitaries3/4who in turn were said to be in pursuit of peasants perceived to support the FARC3/4following the paramilitary as they retreated into Colombian territory; the Venezuelan bombing, which reportedly continued in Colombian territory, is said to have confirmed many Colombians' "long-held suspicions of official Venezuelan support for the guerrillas" (ibid.).

The article quotes an anonymous Colombian policeman as saying that Colombian guerrillas called the Venezuelan army for help (ibid.). The article adds that Colombian police officers and soldiers report that Colombian guerrillas "carry Venezuelan regulation-issued rifles bearing the military seal and wear Venezuelan military uniforms," while "dissident Venezuelan military officers" claim that weaponry has gone missing from Venezuelan arsenals (ibid.). However, the article notes that government officials in Venezuela have denied such allegations (ibid.).

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 to refugee status or asylum.

References


Agence France Presse (AFP). 4 March 2003. Jacques Thomet. "Le Venezuela est accusé d'abriter les chefs de la guérrilla colombienne." (NEXIS)

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002. 31 March 2003. "Venezuela." United States Department of State. Washington, DC. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18348.htm [Accessed 7 Oct. 2003]

The Economist [London]. 15 March 2003. U.S. Edition. "A Lack of Clarity on Terror." (NEXIS)

Inter Press Service (IPS). 1 August 2003. "Venezuela: Kidnaps, Murders Heat Up Border with Colombia." (Dialog)

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 13 August 2003. Vol. 35, No. 16. Mike Ceaser. "Venezuela/Colombia: Border Conflict: Amid Allegations of State Involvement in Cross-Border Clashes, It's the Campesinos Who Pay." http://www.latinamericapress.org/main.asp [Accessed 13 Aug. 2003]