Venezuelan Officials Consider State of Emergency in Táchira

Venezuelan officials look to a state of emergency to start addressing the lawlessness along the Colombian boarder, which has led to hundreds of kidnappings, and very few solved crimes.

Caracas, Venezuela, May, 12, 2006—The Venezuelan National Assembly’s Committee of Interior Politics is preparing to approve a report recommending that a state of emergency be declared in Táchira due to rampant unsolved kidnappings in the region, reports the Venezuelan daily El Universal.

The porous Colombian border region has long been regarded as a lawless zone, where women, drugs, and gasoline are trafficked, with little intervention, between the two countries.

The lack of control in the area has lead to a resolution rate of only 5% of the 800 kidnapping cases in the boarder state, according to the report. It was based on the findings of Ilian Medina, the public defender, and members of the National Aseembly’s Human Rights and Constitutional Guarantees staff, according to El Universal. Medina told the daily that the kidnapping “investigations in the [Venezuelan investigative police] have been slowed by blackmail and improper charges” and lack of sufficient lawyers to prosecute the cases. Kidnappers killed 58 people in the first two months this year, he said.

In order to address the problem of kidnappings, the report recommends that Táchira be declared in a state of emergency, the militarization of the state with the army, and the intervention of regional security organizations, reports El Universal. The Venezuelan daily says the report also recommends meetings with community groups such as journalists, churches, farmers, merchants, students, business leaders, and taxi drivers.

The report comes after last week’s meeting where, according to the pro-government Diario Vea, Táchira regional authorities and others met to discuss the problem of insecurity in the state. The Táchira legislature had previously asked Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to declare a state of emergency for the region. The crime and violence, the legislative body said, were caused by “Plan Colombia,” a US backed plan to fight drug trafficking and the guerrillas in the region, and also by the “apparent” demobilization of Colombian paramilitary forces.

Luis Tascón, a National Assembly Deputy from Táchira, told Diario Vea that about 50 Venezuelans, mostly ranchers and business people, are currently being held kidnapped. Most of them were captured in Táchira, he said, and appear to have taken to Colombia.