Chavez Identifies Leaders of Colombian Paramilitary Group in Venezuela

During a press conference with the foreign press, President Chavez presented images of arrested Colombian paramilitary fighters who are known leaders in Colombia's main paramilitary group.

President Chavez presents evidence of paramilitary activity in Venezuela to the foreign press corps
Credit: Gregory Wilpert –
Jose Ernesto Ayala Amado, know as Comandante Lucas, leader of the AUC paramilitary group operating in Norte de Santander, Colombia.
Credit: Miraflores Press

Caracas, May 15, 2004—During a press conference with Venezuela’s foreign press corps on Friday, President Chavez presented the pictures and names of the leaders of the paramilitary group that was captured last week in a farm on the outskirts of the country’s capital.

The main leader of the group is Jose Ernesto Ayala Amado, known as “Comandante Lucas” and is, according to Chavez, also one of the leaders of the Colombian paramilitary group known as the AUC (United Colombian Self-Defense, in its Spanish acronym), in the Colombian state of Norte de Santander.

Two other captured leaders also come from the same state, Rafael Antonio Omaña Trujillo, know as “Comandante Richard”, and Yeferson Gutierrez Guzman, know as “Comandante Yeferson”. Two more AUC leaders who were part of the Venezuelan group are still at large, Comandantes “Diego” and “Costeño.” President Chavez said, “It’s not like we are inventing things, as the media have irresponsibly begun to claim. Rather, there was a Colombian paramilitary operation of infiltration into Venezuelan territory, some with several years’ worth of experience and some newly recruited.”

Yeferson Gutierrez Guzman, know as Comandante Yeferson, linked to the AUC paramilitary group operating in Norte de Santander, Colombia.
Credit: Miraflores Press

According to Chavez, the group captured last week consisted of three blocks. The first of AUC leaders from Norte de Santander, the second of Colombian paramilitary fighters with experience, and a third block of individuals who were tricked into coming, some of whom are minors.

Colombian government does not have any connection with paramilitaries in Venezuela

President Chavez stated that in relation with the captured paramilitary group, “I am absolutely certain that the government of President Alvaro Uribe has nothing to do with this. I believe it and I know it. Chavez added that in recent conversations with the Colombian president, shortly before the discovery of the paramilitary group, they concluded that Colombian-Venezuelan relations were quite good and that trade between the two countries had increased by 100% since last year’s oil industry shut-down.

Rafael Antonio Omaña Trujillo, know as Comandante Richard, linked to the AUC paramilitary group operating in Norte de Santander, Colombia.
Credit: Miraflores Press

Nonetheless, there are, according Chavez, elements of Colombia’s extreme right that are involved in attempting to overthrow his government.

Venezuelan opposition is for the most part also not involved

When asked exactly who among Venezuela’s opposition leaders are involved in the paramilitary plot, President Chavez clarified that he was certain that “definitely these plans were not supported by an important part of the opposition.” The planning was too sloppy and the resources too limited to indicate that major sectors of Venezuela’s opposition might have been involved. “If a large part of opposition leaders had been involved in the presence of the paramilitary group in our country, then these men would have counted on vehicles, weapons,” said Chavez.

A man was killed and buried in the farm near Caracas where the paramilitary group was training.
Credit: Miraflores Press