Legislators Denounce Separatism and Paramilitarism in Venezuelan Border State

The
vice president of the legislative council in Táchira state, Jonathan García,
denounced a campaign by Táchira Governor César Pérez Vivas (an opponent of President
Hugo Chávez), together with other rightwing sectors, to promote a separatist
movement in the Venezuelan state, which borders Colombia.

By Kiraz Janicke

Cesar_Perez_yvke.jpg

Governor of Táchira, César Pérez Vivas (YVKE)
Governor of Táchira, César Pérez Vivas (YVKE)
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Caracas, July 21st 2009, (Venezuelanalysis.com) - In a press
conference on Saturday, the vice president of the legislative council in
Táchira state, Jonathan García, denounced a campaign by Táchira Governor César
Pérez Vivas (an opponent of President Hugo Chávez), together with other
rightwing sectors, to promote a separatist movement in the Venezuelan state,
which borders Colombia.

On April 17th, Pérez Vivas decreed the formation of an
"International Cooperation Commission" with the supposed ability to sign
cooperation agreements with other countries, and take foreign policy positions.

However, this oversteps the jurisdiction of the state government and is
unconstitutional, García explained. Further, he argued, it is an indication of
the aim of the regional administration "to behave as a nation, rather than part
of one."

Nellyver Lugo, a spokesperson for the United Socialist Party of
Venezuela (PSUV) said that the governor was "trying to legitimize fascist
separatist actions" through the decrees but they had been blocked by the
Comptroller General's Office, ABN reported on July 14th.

Earlier on March 30th at the initiative of the governor, a
Regional Human Security Council was created with the participation of
representatives from business organizations and private security firms. García
said the aim was to create a parallel police force.

At a national level, García said the campaign is being promoted by the
Liberal Democratic Movement (MDL), headed by Marco Polessel who has visited the
border state to promote proposed autonomy statutes and a plebiscite to separate
the Venezuelan state.

According to its website the MDL is also promoting autonomy statutes in
at least six other Venezuelan states including Sucre, Monagas, Bolívar, Anzoátegui,
Aragua, and Falcón.

The MDL lists as its international collaborators Silvio Berlusconi's
Forza Italia, the extreme-right National Alliance party in Italy, the
Republican Party in the United States, the International Republican Institute
(IRI), the right-wing ARENA party in El Salvador, the pro-Pinochet Independent
Democratic Union (UDI) in Chile, the Popular Party in Spain and the
conservative Friedich Naumann Foundation.

García asserted that the tactic being promoted in Táchira is similar to
that employed by right-wing opposition sectors in the wealthy eastern states of
Bolivia opposed to the Evo Morales government.

In addition García alleged that under the Pérez Vivas administration
there has been abuse and persecution of workers, irregular management of the
state budget and wasteful allocations of resources to the police and corrupt
officials, some of whom he charged were linked to kidnappings in the region.

Vilma Vivas, regional coordinator of the National Union of Workers
(UNT) in Táchira, said on Friday that the governor was applying "persecution
and terrorism" against workers and withholding funds from communal councils
without explanation, Aporrea reported.

According to the union activist, the actions of the governor are part
of an opposition strategy that includes the use of assassinations of union
leaders and paramilitarism, in order to carry out a coup d'etat.

The comments follow previous denunciations in the National Assembly by
Táchira State Legislator Iris Valera, who accused Pérez Vivas of receiving
money from Colombian paramilitary groups to destabilize the Venezuelan
government.

Valera charged that Pérez Vivas "travels frequently to Colombia to meet
with irregular groups, receives funding and facilitates the entry of these
criminals to Venezuelan territory," ABN reported on July 15th.

A report in Quórum, a publication of the Venezuelan National Assembly,
cited Valera as saying that the governor of Táchira is promoting the formation
of armed groups together with the Venezuelan Ranchers Federation (FEDENAGA).

In the opinion of Valera there is an attempt in Táchira to reproduce
the "Colombian model" of paramilitarism.

In an interview with El Universal on March 23rd 2003, prior
to assuming the national presidency of FEDENAGA, Genaro Méndez, then the regional
president of the Táchira Ranchers Federation, admitted that ranchers were
forming "self-defense" groups ostensibly in response to crime and insecurity in
the region and the infiltration of Colombian guerrilla groups over the border.

Questioned as to whether he supported the use of paramilitaries to deal
with insecurity he said, "If the state doesn't do it, someone has to defend
those who work."

"I'm not saying that we are going to contract Colombian paramilitaries,
but there are people here that are surrounding themselves with private
bodyguards, that are creating groups to defend themselves," he continued.

Méndez said that as the president of the federation he received
protection from the National Guard, "but that possibility is flatly denied to
other ranchers in the region, but who will defend themselves with what they
have, if necessary."

More recently, Méndez told Venevisión on June 30th that
there had not been a sufficient response by the government to the issue of
crime, "they have said that we are the cause of crime, what it is, is a form of
self defense," he said.

Since the Chávez government passed a series of land reform measures in
2001, private mercenaries contracted by large landowners have murdered more
than 200 peasant leaders.

On Friday thousands of people marched through San Cristóbal, the
capital of Táchira, to protest increased paramilitary activity in the region as
well as the separatist campaign promoted by the governor.