How to confront the paramilitary and mercenary invasion of Venezuela and local terrorist groups in our community.
In the second part of this manual, I talk about the INVEDECOR method of the Venezuelan sociologist Carlos Lanz Rodríguez, a method that he taught me during the long days of study that we had throughout 1994 in Caleb, Lara State. So before I published it I sent him the text and his answer was “now you have graduated as an invedecorist”.
When the first version of the second part of this text was finally published, he took the trouble to write and call me to congratulate me for what he considered an important contribution to the integral defense of the Homeland.
Both memories honor me and I treasure them, together with the study and struggle days I have shared with him in these 26 years along with those that are waiting for his return.
Therefore, because he was one of the teachers who gave me life, because of his dedication to the struggle, because of his brotherhood, because of his ethics, because he has worked more than anyone else the issue of the hybrid war against Venezuela and he has always been concerned about strengthening the social fabric to resist it. And also because today our comrade is a victim of forced disappearance, which has much to do with what is denounced in this manual and I want to raise my voice to shout that we want to see him alive, back in his house and in our lives, is that today I dedicate this manual to that tireless Venezuelan revolutionary teacher:
Dedicated to Carlos Lanz Rodríguez
Alive they took him away and alive we want him back!Recent photo by Carlos Lanz Rodríguez
This manual is a militant effort to synthesize and give practical meaning to a participatory research project of many years that begins in the border territories and concludes by nourishing the exchange with rural and urban communes, Colombian immigrant communities that participate in the construction of the Bolivarian Revolution, as well as other researchers on related topics, state institutions, and personal experience acquired in recent years.
Every manual is eminently practical and this one seeks to be a tool to contribute to the Integral Defense of the Homeland from the communities in the framework of a prolonged popular war in which the Venezuelan People have been immersed for several years, even without realizing it. This document has been conceived within a series of manuals to strengthen the capacities of the People’s Power in the Integral Defense of the Fatherland and the Bolivarian Revolution, supporting the fundamental task of the Bolivarian Militia and strengthening the civic-military-police union; the fight against corruption and bureaucratism; and the actions that seek to overcome the crisis generated by the pandemic, which has forced us to reflect on the importance of public health and ultimately, to advance in the construction of Peace, with a capital “P”.
The urgency generated by the current scenario, forced us to produce two partial preliminary publications so that it could be used and simultaneously, could begin to benefit from all the criticisms and contributions that indeed arrived.
We provide here an instrument to make visible the invasion of Colombian paramilitarism and mercenaries in Venezuela, with the aim of evidencing the need to denounce and confront it, as well as the local terrorist structures in the making.
For this reason, the first part will consist of fourteen recommendations whose objective is that by looking around we can discern whether the problem is actually present and surrounding us, or whether it is alien to us, because only what is perceived as real and relevant generates awareness, and only conscious actions can generate historical changes.
We will then move on to how to confront them and even prevent them from settling in our territories.
The spirit of this Handbook to defend the Revolution from our community is to promote and provide tools to exercise the co-responsibility established in Article 326 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which states:
“The security of the Nation is based on the co-responsibility between the State and the civil society, in order to comply with the principles of independence, democracy, equality, peace, freedom, justice, solidarity, environmental promotion and conservation, and the affirmation of human rights, as well as the progressive satisfaction of the individual and collective needs of the Venezuelan people, on the basis of a sustainable and productive development of full coverage for the national community. The principle of co-responsibility is exercised in the economic, social, political, cultural, geographical, environmental and military spheres”.
It is an attempt to contribute to the understanding of the reason and the way in which this invasion has been taking place for almost two decades, as part of the hybridization of the war against Venezuela for being the main obstacle to the re-launching of the Monroe doctrine in the region and the scenario of geopolitical disputes that transcend it and finally, we will present some proposals to confront this operation from the communities, which certainly entails military and police implications, but above all, political, cultural and economic ones of a strategic nature.
It is directed at social leaders of Venezuela, militants of revolutionary parties, public servants who work in the communities, militiamen and militias, communal men and women and communal farmers in general.
Keys: to make visible, to learn, to know, to locate, to diagnose.
What is social intelligence?
In a very useful book, which we recommend reading, called “Inteligencia social y sala situacional” (2004), Venezuelans Luis Bonilla-Molina and Haiman El Troudi[i], answer this question masterfully:
“Social intelligence refers to the experience and knowledge accumulated by communities and social groups that express themselves in strategies for survival against the enemy, those contrary to their interests, and to contribute to to achieving the success for the friendly, the allies, and for themselves.
The social intelligence organizes the resistance, combat and legacy of the unruly and rebellious historical journey of the sovereign people. Consequently, it is expressed by the people. When social intelligence is associated or connected to institutional spaces, it is redimensioned and qualified, demanding its use based on the transversal concept of social ecology (everyone wins and no one loses), never to be used against the citizens themselves or against a segment of the population with which the institutions differ. In this case, situational social intelligence is usually referred to as intelligence whose place of enunciation is the neighborhood, the urbanization, the condominium, but which, in order to achieve more efficient and effective collective action, is associated with the institutionality”.
This manual is intended, in the first place, to be an exercise of that situational social intelligence to defend the Bolivarian Revolution, national sovereignty and the integrity of our social fabric and our territories.
From whom should we defend ourselves?
Brief contextualization and characterization of the enemy
The latest geopolitical events in Our America have been evidencing the tactics of the relaunching of the Monroe Doctrine which, breaking with the traditional search for stability to dominate and beyond the strengthening of the regular armies, proposes a tacit declaration of war against the Peoples in rebellion, at the same time it strengthens drug trafficking and seeks to expand the Colombian model of paramilitarization at the service of the subordinate governments of the region, which in turn implies an increase in the corruption of the states and the transnationalization of the so-called “parapolitics” at the service of the imperial strategy, all this to convert the states of the region into failed states and generate a chaos favorable to their interests.
Proof of this is the upsurge in paramilitary actions in Colombia and all of Mesoamerica, the legitimization of paramilitarism after the dictatorship in Bolivia and, of course, a new push for the paramilitary invasion of Venezuela, with the adaptation of the violent groups of the Venezuelan right to this model, the co-optation of Venezuelan criminal gangs and the growth of a “parapolitics of opposition”.
It should be noted that the advance of this model also goes hand in hand with the private military companies (PMCs) that have coordinated their actions with paramilitary groups in Colombia, mainly those that provide services to US military bases and large mining and energy transnationals. In the case of Venezuela, the recently revealed participation of the company Silver Corp USA Inc. in arms trafficking, training, planning and attempted execution of actions against the Bolivarian Revolution from Colombian territory, left clear evidence of this. The arrival a few months ago of new U.S. military contingents in Colombia indicates a possible increase in these types of actions.
This means that although this manual was originally written to confront the expansion of Colombian paramilitarism over Venezuela, it later became evident that it was important for the community to also locate the arrival or simple circulation of mercenaries in its territory.
But in this context we must emphasize two things that we tend to reiterate. First, that this whole operation, although it may represent profits for some sectors of the Colombian right, does not correspond to the interests of the country, nor even to those of its entire ruling class – part of which have lost millions in exports that they traditionally made to Venezuela and which also fear the economic and political instability that a war between the two nations could generate – but is once again, the subordination of national interests to those represented by the US, the only country that would obtain great profits from a hypothetical war between Colombia and Venezuela.
The second thing that we reiterate is that Colombia, as an experimental laboratory of this model and a focus of its irradiation, is also for this reason, an example of popular resistance and of that historical accumulation the peoples of Our America should draw from.
Venezuela, for which these lines are written, must never forget that in the process of confronting the paramilitary invasion, the Colombian people, who live on both sides of the border, can and must be their best companions, because to confront Colombian paramilitarism and its spawn, is to fight against the extermination of the popular forces that resist the plundering of our common wealth.
Colombian paramilitary groups, mercenaries and local terrorists
Despite the fact that Colombian paramilitarism is increasingly a political-military phenomenon and less of a group of organizations or structures, which makes it more diffuse and therefore more difficult to see, confront and eradicate, we have synthesized these first indicators that we present below briefly, for the purposes outlined above.
We also add to this first actor, the groups of mercenaries, particularly Private Military Contractors who have been penetrating the country using Colombia and some Caribbean islands as their beachhead.
The adaptation of the violent groups of the Venezuelan right to this model, which began with the so-called “white hands” that ended up forming their leaderships directly in Colombian territory, was mixed with the co-optation of Venezuelan criminal gangs and the growth of an “opposition parapolitics” until some local terrorist groups were created that are also part of the enemy we are seeking to profile in this manual.
How do we know if they are in our community?
Some indicators of the presence of these groups in a territory are
1.- Sudden appearance or unusual increase of illegal economies in the community. Smuggling, drug sales, illegal mining, human trafficking, prostitution, etc.
2.- Sudden appearance or increase of businesses linked to money laundering. Gambling and betting houses, buying and selling of broken gold, pawn shops, construction “boom”, non-productive businesses, etc.
3.- Appearance of moneylenders. Particularly of the “drop by drop” modality, which allows small and long term payments, to commit as many people as possible.
4.- Collection of vaccines. Stickers or similar prints are beginning to be seen on vehicles and business premises that identify the groups that collect these taxes called “vacunas” to allow operation and supposedly guarantee protection.
5.- Increase in gender violence and sexual crimes against women and children Although sexual assaults on men have also been reported in some territories, the most common are violence against women, rape, disappearance, and forced prostitution, which in most cases includes child prostitution.
6.- Emergence or increase of disputes over control of illegal economies New groups of smugglers, drug dealers, pimps, etc. arrive in the community. They begin to dispute territory with those who controlled it until now and if they resist, armed confrontations between gangs begin.
7.- Waves of unjustified immigration In the border areas, it is common for communities displaced by state violence through the public forces or paramilitary groups to enter from Colombia; these displaced communities are mostly victims of the conflict and require the support and solidarity that characterizes the Bolivarian people. But when this immigration is sudden and not due to forced displacement, it is a sign that should set off alarms. In these cases, particular attention should be paid to people of combat age, with such a profile, especially if in their discourse or practice they identify with the Venezuelan opposition.
8.- In rural areas, the appearance of agricultural items linked to territorial control. These are above all oil palm and cattle raising, but also when lands for agricultural use are suddenly converted into mines.
9.- Forced displacement of the resident population. This phenomenon is already occurring even in neighborhoods of Caracas, and semi-rural areas of Aragua, Carabobo and Miranda, but it remains unreported and undocumented. Any threat to have someone leave their home or land against their will may be an indication of invasion by these forces.
10.- Appearance or increase of political violence Threats, actions to intimidate, assassinations, torture or forced disappearances of social leaders, people linked to the left, militiamen or militias, military, police and servants of Bolivarian government institutions. Particular emphasis must be placed on actions that tend towards an “agrarian counter-reform”.
11.- Presence of aggressions with an unusual level of violence. Increase in robberies accompanied by disproportionate violence, torture, cruel and apparently unmotivated murders, which may be related to paramilitary training of local criminals.
12.- “Social cleansing” announcements, written or verbal. These supposed “cleansings” begin with the murder of common criminals, and end up extending to sex workers, people in street situations, diverse sex people, revolutionaries and revolutionaries.
13.- Increase in private surveillance on farms, big national or transnational private companies, especially if these companies begin to exceed the territorial limits of the property they are guarding and pretend to assume police or even judicial tasks, in the surrounding territory.
14.- Non-institutional patrols and curfews. Imposed by armed groups that decide who can be on the street and until what time.
How many indicators must we find to set off the alarms?
Although there are undoubtedly other signs that have not been mentioned in this text, the existence of only one of the indicators presented here should trigger alarm and, as far as possible, be communicated to the competent agencies in the area, but above all, it should mean that a process of situational social intelligence must be initiated to verify whether other indicators exist and at the same time initiate or strengthen the community’s organizational processes and liaison with state institutions to prevent the advance and definitive control of these groups over the territory.
The presence of more than four indicators implies that the territory is at serious risk. However, even in the presence of all the indicators, the community and the Venezuelan state can regain control over their territory, as long as they are aware of this and work together. The task of regaining the territory that is the habitat of a community, strengthening control over it so as not to lose it or even starting to inhabit vacant territories before they are occupied, is not necessarily a military or police task. The experience of recent decades in Colombia has shown that stopping the advance of these armed arms of the transnational right is possible above all when there is popular awareness and organization.
In this sense, the organized Communes are the first ones called to understand this operation and to consolidate control over their own territories from the vision of the integral defense of the Fatherland and the construction of the Communal State.
Although we have been and continue to enunciate the common, and to contribute analysis of general and relative contexts of the communities, the most important thing is that each community pass it through the sieve of its specific context, its accumulated knowledge, experiences and particular circumstances.
One of the most complete contributions received from the Communes of the Venezuelan border warns of a “mutation” of paramilitarism to infiltrate the revolutionary forces of the communities in which it has managed to settle.
They denounce the aforementioned contribution, in which the mafias that sustain the contraband were imposing the circulation of Colombian pesos and dollars in the Venezuelan border territories, and with this the Venezuelan currency was further weakened, subjected to a systematic attack from the Colombian exchange houses and web pages of the Venezuelan opposition, and the capacity of these mafias to co-opt merchants, but also officials of the Venezuelan state, to increase and legitimize their presence, was strengthened.
Corruption is obviously a serious crack in any revolutionary political construction, against which the State or the communities should not lower their guard, not only because it means the ethical decomposition and weakening of the revolutionary forces, but also because it is a method with which the paramilitary organizations and drug traffickers have managed to control the Colombian institutions and that is the model of the subordinate State that they aspire to build in Venezuela. Above all, it is very important to attack any sign of corruption within the personnel of the security and defense agencies of the state, to prevent them from being placed at the service of or being functional to the groups we are denouncing here.
Beyond the “natural importers”, which are the transnational companies and the landowning sector, another way in which we are told that this invasion has achieved a certain legitimacy is through direct financing of small and medium agricultural and livestock production units, as well as indirectly through the purchase of products at the farm gate, – in higher amounts and in foreign currency – for the smuggling of items such as coffee, cocoa, cattle, fish, leather and even mining products extracted by hand.
The particular complexity of the smuggling business and especially that of Venezuelan fuel has been addressed in other of our analyses because of its implications in the economic war against Venezuela but particularly because of its role in the production of cocaine and the legitimization of capital in Colombia.
It should also be noted that in some Venezuelan border and coastal communities, Colombian mafias and paramilitaries have set up shop mainly to protect this business. An example that needs to be made visible is that of the eastern coasts of Venezuela where this fuel theft has been carried out especially through large industrial fishing boats but which over time also managed to co-opt some fishermen from multipurpose boats that were financed by the government and thus penetrated a social fabric born of the Bolivarian Revolution.
The most important thing is that this and other contributions that we received from the communities, pointed out the need to clarify that the paramilitary invasion directed from Colombia has indeed managed to settle in some Venezuelan territories, as we have said on other occasions, but in others it has not managed to advance or has even been expelled in recent years.
In the specific case of Táchira and Zulia, the retreat of the invading forces has been sustained in the last year, thanks to the impulse of a political-military offensive of presence and permanent attention of the Venezuelan State in both border regions and which, starting with the successful “Battle of the Bridges” in Táchira on February 23, 2019 and other battles won in Zulia, deepened from the first line of defense, the civic-military alliance that is the bastion of the Venezuelan process. But we must not forget that there are still local terrorist gangs that were strengthened by that invasion.
Keys: organize, investigate, communicate, educate, resist.
In this second part we will go deeper into the attempt to contribute to the understanding of how this incursion and attempt to settle in Venezuelan territory by Colombian paramilitaries for almost two decades, the mercenary incursion and the constitution of local terrorist groups as part of the hybridization of the war against Venezuela as the main obstacle to the re-launching of the Monroe Doctrine in the region and scenario of geopolitical disputes that transcend it, and above all, we will deliver proposals on how to confront them.
What to do when we have already detected the existence of more than one indicator of the presence of paramilitary groups in our community?
Because of the above, we suggest that after reviewing the fourteen indicators that we pointed out in the first installment within our community or organization, we should identify the level of control that these organizations have achieved in our territory. To do this we suggest:
- Identify how long ago the first indicators appeared and if they still remain.
- Count how many indicators we perceive and how easy it is to see them.
The longer the signs of this incursion, the more indicators we find and the easier they are to detect, the more advanced this presence is.
Thus, in general terms, we could locate if that penetration is located in one of these six stages:
1.- Without the presence of invading forces.
2.- With sporadic presence, that is to say, that our territory is only a transit zone.
3.- Beginning of the penetration of our territory.
4 .- In the process of legitimacy and implementation.
5 .- In control of the territory and the community.
6 .- In retreat or escape.
To locate in which stage these forces are in our community will tell us which are the levels of alert that we must adopt – being stage 5 the most serious – and, contrasting with the level of organization and capacity for the defense of our community, to evaluate with sense what are the actions that we can carry out as People’s Power in co-responsibility with the institutions of the State and for which the action of the diverse police and military institutions of the Venezuelan State is essential.
What are the decisive factors in preventing the enemy from advancing from one stage to another or from stage 2 directly to stage 6, or better still, from approaching our territory even though it is important to them?
The decisive factors for this are fundamentally two:
- The presence of the state, not only with the FANB and the police forces but also with all its other institutions and government policies. Schools, hospitals, Misión Barrio Adentro, local representatives of ministries, ombudsmen’s offices, large missions, missions and micro-missions, feeding houses, shelters, etc.
- Existence of an organized community, whose social fabric is strong and forms part of a larger network that transcends its vital space, ideally a national organization such as networks of communal men and women, popular organizations, feminists, students, parties of the great patriotic pole, Bolivarian Militia, CLAP, musical groups, theater collectives, community radio stations, etc.
The key is that in addition, channels of communication and permanent coordination between the institutions of the State and the community should be opened or maintained. It will be a very difficult task for the community to defend its territory without the support of the State, as is the case in Colombia, and it is impossible for the State to defend the territory without the support of the communities.
In a classic vision, this would be the task of the party. But in the roadmap drawn by President Chávez that task transcends to the construction of the Communal State that continues in the horizon of the project of the Bolivarian Revolution, to guarantee the development and integral defense of the homeland. Because as we said before: “The task of recovering the territory, which is the habitat of a community, strengthening the control over it so as not to lose it or even start inhabiting vacant territories before they are occupied, is not necessarily a military or police task. The experience of the last decades in Colombia has demonstrated that stopping the advance of these armed arms of the transnational right is possible when there is popular consciousness and organization”.
This means, then, that there are three tasks to accomplish in order to achieve the success we are aiming for:
To make our territory an “organized community” that is strong, in solidarity, just, and in a constant process of learning and transformation for the construction of the Communal State and its consequent defense. A community that links with other communities and national and international organizations. Article 4 of the Organic Law of the Communes defines it as:
“Organized community: Constituted by the popular organizational expressions, workers’ councils, peasants, fishermen and fisherfolk and any other base organization, articulated in an instance of the Popular Power”.
To strengthen the presence of the institutions of the State in our community, calling on the institutions that are not present, accompanying and supervising those that are present and particularly forming the Popular Units of Integral Defense where they do not exist, or simply strengthening them and making them dynamic where they already are.
To optimize all the channels of communication possible between our community and the institutions of the State, which of course also includes, deepening the civic-military police union. Never leave those who defend our security and sovereignty alone.
How to organize our community
Venezuela has a broad historical accumulation of popular organization that has crystallized in the last twenty years in unprecedented experiences of popular organization.
The diverse instances of aggregation of the Popular Power, Communal Councils, Communes, Communal Cities, Corridors, etc. They have a good set of laws and above all policies that guide and support their formation and growth.
But this has not been a linear growth, much less easy, there is still internal resistance and negligence. In some instances, for example, there have been setbacks, for various reasons that are the subject of another analysis, but some have already been mentioned here. However, an emblematic case that is inescapable in this manual is the agrarian counter-reform that the landowners who were expropriated by the government of President Chávez have tried to achieve. These landowners were among the first “importers” of these Colombian paramilitary forces and even today they use them to murder and displace the peasant communities that benefit from the Bolivarian government’s policies. For this reason, the People must sustain their will to power and therefore, their constant struggle to prevent backsliding on the advanced.
A suggested method for organizing our Community
During the last decades, Venezuelan sociologist Carlos Lanz has developed the INVEDECOR method, which proposes the transformation of the communities through the articulation of processes of participatory action research, liberating education, community communication and popular organization, which should be part of a superior fabric of resistance that is expressed at all levels, reaching the national and ideally Our America, because it is not a question of making the communities islands but of making each one a space for the construction and defense of a historical project.
That is to say, an organized community should have community media that coordinate with diverse organizations of popular power that in turn have spaces of popular education and permanently develop participative action research to achieve its transformation. We would like to emphasize here the importance of popular organization for production, and not only for the distribution and consumption of food, which is also important.
An organized community in Venezuela must be part of a Commune and as such must also have its Popular Units of Integral Defense of the Fatherland, fundamental cells of the Bolivarian Militia where the situational social intelligence is articulated to defend the sovereignty.
It is also fundamental that in each community organizations of human rights defenders are formed, capable of constantly following the situation of the community in general and the particular cases, registering information, writing reports, linking with the corresponding institutions and of course, opening spaces of sensitization, diffusion and community training on the subject.
Finally, every Commune must always coordinate with other Communes in Systems of Aggregation and advance together towards the construction of the Communal State which is the one that will allow us to sovereignly build our Historical Project, to defend the Homeland from its fundamental cell and to brotherhood with the neighboring Peoples to continue raising the sword of Bolivar and the dreams of Hugo Chávez.
What is Peace and what is it for?
Peace is a fundamental historical construction to be able to develop ourselves fully. That historical construction has as base the social justice in its different dimensions for what if we want to live in Peace, we must aim to make them reality: the economic justice, the political justice and for their position the justice from the juridical point of view. Without social justice there is no peace, only pacification which is a state of control of the conflict by force and not of resolution.
But it is also impossible to build this peace that we are proposing here without respect for our sovereignty. Defending our sovereignty is also one of the tasks for building it, and this is the strategic objective of this Manual and others that we hope to publish soon.
To build Peace from our communal territories, with sovereignty and justice
This peace also implies defeating discrimination and gender violence. For this reason, another pertinent call would be to confront the latter more efficiently and not stigmatize people or migrant communities, for example, and especially not stigmatize those who live in the territories that are being infiltrated by this type of organization.
This is fundamental, especially from the state, which cannot and should not “lower the Santamaría” or declare territories lost. On the contrary, a community that is being controlled by these groups should be one in which state institutions make greater efforts to support the reconstruction of the social fabric. Strengthening positive leadership, promoting and supporting community organization of different types: sports, artistic, productive, etc. And of course, guaranteeing also psychological and emotional attention, which is usually the most forgotten of the variables when planning the recovery of a territory.
In conclusion, the pertinent strategy to deepen the Revolution and defend the sovereignty of our territories in Peace, continues to be that of building the Communal State from its fundamental cell: the Commune. As defined in Article 8, number 8 of the Organic Law of People’s Power of 2010:
“Communal State: Form of social political organization, founded on the democratic and social state of law and justice established in the Constitution of the Republic, in which power is exercised directly by the people, with an economic model of social property and sustainable endogenous development, which allows the achievement of the supreme social happiness of Venezuelans in socialist society. The fundamental cell for the formation of the communal state is the Commune”[ii].
[i] This book is available free of charge on the internet at: https://luisbonillamolina.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/inteligencia-social-y-sala-situacional.pdf
Translation by Internationalist 360°