Mérida, March 18th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Wednesday Venezuelan authorities captured five suspected members of the right-wing Colombian paramilitary group Águilas Negras (or Black Eagles) in the southwestern border state of Táchira. Authorities affirmed that one of those arrested is Diego Armando López – also known as Comandante Iván (Commander Iván) – suspected of being the organization’s chief of operations for the Venezuelan cities of San Antonio del Táchira and Ureña, as well as the Colombian town of La Parada. Authorities called the arrests “the most significant blow” to the Aguilas operations in Venezuela to date.
According to statements made by Manuel Chacón Vivas, police commissioner and deputy director of Venezuela’s Penal, Criminal, and Scientific Investigative Unit (CICPC) for the state of Táchira, the operation began after authorities received an anonymous phone call alerting them of an act of armed extortion taking place at the Gladisferr shopping mall in San Antonio del Táchira. The Águilas, said Vivas, entered the mall and threatened to kill members of one store-owners’ family if he did not pay them 100 million Colombian pesos (53,300 USD).
In response to the anonymous call, authorities surrounded the shopping center and used windows, skylights, and other openings to launch an armed raid that brought an end to the brief stand-off.
The identities of the five men arrested were released soon after the raid: Fernando Moyano Mendoza, Yused Alexander Bulgarín, Diego Armando López, Arbuen Wisinley Calderón, and César Alberto Ruiz González.
The first three men cited are Colombians, while Calderón and González are Venezuelans.
Along with weapons and ammunition, the men were found in possession of pamphlets distributed by the Águilas Negras that read, “We already have you identified – The time for local cleansing has arrived.”
Vivas also explained that because of the group’s “highly dangerous” nature, authorities have increased security measures at CICPC offices in both San Antonio and San Cristóbal and have kept the exact site where the men are currently being held secret. All five are expected to be transferred to San Cristóbal to face prosecution.
The Águilas Negras, or Black Eagles, are presumed to be ex members of the now demobilized United Self-Defenses of Colombia (AUC), a conglomeration of paramilitary groups formed in the 1990’s to fight Colombian guerrilla rebels on behalf of large estate owners, cattle ranchers, and right-wing politicians using cash earned mostly from drug trafficking.
In mid-2009, Venezuelan Minister for Justice and Internal Affairs, Tarek El-Aissami, accused the governors of opposition-held states along the Colombian border of using paramilitary groups to launch a violent separatist movement in attempts to destabilize the Chávez government.