Venezuelan, Colombian armed groups abuse locals: Report

Human Rights Watch says groups use violence to control residents’ lives with near-to-absolute impunity

Laura Gamba   | 23.01.2020
Venezuelan, Colombian armed groups abuse locals: Report

BOGOTA, Colombia 

Armed groups in the eastern Colombian department of Arauca and in the neighboring Venezuelan state of Apure control residents’ lives through threats, kidnappings and murder, Human Rights Watch said in a recent report.

The report, “The Guerrillas Are the Police: Social Control and Abuses by Armed Groups in Colombia’s Arauca Province and Venezuela’s Apure State,” said the National Liberation Army (ELN), the Patriotic Forces of National Liberation (FPLN), and a dissident group of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have sieged the border between Colombia and Venezuela have imposed their own rules and inflicting fear among people.

“The title of the report was provided to us by a police officer who told us that the guerrillas in the region are the police, they enforce the law, their law,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director for Human Rights Watch in a news conference Jan. 22.

Since 2015, killings in this region have gone up considerably. From 96 murders that year, the number has risen to 161 between January and late-November 2019. The report also document the recruitment and sexual abuse of Colombian and Venezuelan children on both sides of the border.

“Armed groups often offer payment, motorcycles, and guns to children to lure them to join. Girls who escaped from armed groups’ ranks have reported members of the groups committing sexual violence against them, including rape and forced abortion,” said the 64-page report.

The NGO also accuses Venezuelan forces of colluding with Colombian militias. Vivanco claims local inhabitants feel unprotected and are afraid to speak out of fear of reprisals by members of the armed groups who are responsible for the majority of deaths that occur in the region.

“The truth is that the degree of protection offered by the Government to the people is virtually non-existent. It seems Arauca is worse off than it was before the peace agreement,” he declared.

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