CARACAS, April 5 – Venezuela said on Monday it created a special military command in a border area with Colombia, where there have been clashes with illegal armed groups in which eight soldiers have died.
Venezuela has reported, since mid-March, clashes with irregular members of the Colombian paramilitaries, without mentioning rebels who are dissidents of the Colombian government’s agreements with the guerrillas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or with members of the National Liberation Army (ELN), such as specialists and human rights groups point out.
Defense Minister General Vladimir Padrino said that the so-called Integral Defense Operational Zone or Zodi will be temporary and will operate in Apure state, where the fighting has taken place since March 21.
Padrino did not give details of how many soldiers would make up this new unit and only added that he would have all the equipment and men he would need to serve at least three of the seven Apure municipalities in which restrictions on transport and trade hours will apply.
He added that so far eight Venezuelan soldiers have died, 34 have been injured, while nine members of those illegal groups have been killed and 33 are being processed.
At least 5,000 inhabitants of the town of La Victoria, in Apure, have fled the area to Arauquita, in the Colombian department of Arauca. Minister Padrino said that the official Venezuelan census shows 3,500 displaced persons.
“We are going to clean this completely, from end to end, centimeter by centimeter (…) our commander-in-chief has ordered the activation of a special, temporary integral defense operational zone,” said the minister.
Padrino added that Venezuela has already sent letters to the United Nations to request its help in demining the border region, which has traditionally been the scene of drug trafficking, human trafficking and smuggling, among other crimes.
The Colombian Foreign Ministry said on Monday that the armed confrontations in the border area of Arauca and Apure “are seriously affecting the lives of the civilian population and have forced families to abandon their homes and belongings.”
“We demand respect for this vulnerable population (…) the Colombian Foreign Ministry demands respect for the rights and life of the civilian population on the border with Venezuela,” he added in a message on his official Twitter account.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.