Renewed Clashes in Colombo-Venezuelan Border Region Leave Several Dead

President Nicolás Maduro ordered the largest military operation in decades aimed at defending Venezuela’s territorial sovereignty this past March.

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Venezuelan troops pay posthumous tribute to fellow soldiers killed in clashes near the Colombian-Venezuelan border. (@somos_ejercito / Twitter)
Venezuelan troops pay posthumous tribute to fellow soldiers killed in clashes near the Colombian-Venezuelan border. (@somos_ejercito / Twitter)
By José Luis Granados Ceja
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Mexico City, Mexico, April 28, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – A number of Venezuelan soldiers were killed amid renewed fighting between state security forces and Colombian “irregular armed groups” near the settlement of La Victoria in Apure state.

Media reports indicated that Venezuelan troops were ambushed Friday as two helicopters attempted to land near an improvised military base with several killed in the ensuing clash. The armed groups allegedly seized weapons and temporarily established control over the area, preventing the immediate recovery of the slain soldiers’ bodies.

A communique issued by Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López Monday did not specify the number of casualties, a subsequent communique expressed condolences to the families of eight people killed in combat. NGOs working in the area claim up to 12 Venezuelan soldiers fell in the fighting.

“The Bolivarian National Armed Forces reports that in the last seventy-two (72) hours bloody combats have been taking place with irregular Colombian armed groups,” read the statement.

The statement also mentioned an unspecified number of casualties inflicted on the Colombian group, as well as the “destruction of temporary facilities that they intended to use for their criminal activities.”

The fortified presence of Venezuelan troops near the Colombo-Venezuelan border come as the result of the Bolivarian Shield 2021 military operation ordered by President Nicolás Maduro called to defend Venezuela’s territorial sovereignty.

Venezuela has called on the United Nations (UN) to intervene over recent clashes with groups on the Colombian border and assist in landmine removal.

For his part, the Strategic Operational Commander of the Bolivarian National Armed Force, Admiral Remigio Ceballos, stated that operations by security forces to expel “Colombian narco-paramilitary groups, drug traffickers and terrorists” would continue in the area.

The Venezuelan government has pointed the finger at “imperialist agents” with “regime change” agendas for being behind the violence. Defense Minister Padrino said in a tweet on Tuesday that the effort to “sow chaos” inside Venezuela was developed in Washington.

The porous border between Venezuela and Colombia has created significant tensions between the two countries in recent years and the development of cross-border criminal operations including drug and fuel smuggling.

The heavy fighting has caused the displacement of several thousands to the town of Arauquita on the Colombian side of the border, with accusations of human rights abuses leveled against both sides.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza criticized a report by Human Rights Watch and comments by its Latin America director José Miguel Vivanco surrounding human rights abuses claims in Apure. Arreaza defended the presence of state security forces in the state of Apure to defeat the armed groups.

José María Romero, mayor of the Páez municipality in Apure state, claims that a dissident front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that did not participate in the peace process with the Colombian government is responsible for the clashes in the area.

Media reports indicate this group to be under the command of guerilla commander Miguel Santillana, alias Gentil Duarte. He reportedly controls over 1500 dissident guerillas in the former First Front FARC group in the southeast of Colombia.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Sarare.