Since the beginning of the clashes last Sunday, March 21, between Venezuelan state security forces and armed groups operating in Apure, on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, attempts were made to construct a false narrative aimed at criminalizing the government of President Nicolás Maduro and involving secondary actors.
The discourse framework promoted hours after the events was that the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) had bombed the civilian population of La Victoria, a border town in the Venezuelan plains state, and was confronting an alleged faction of the dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) living on the border to carry out illicit activities.
According to La Tabla, journalists and NGOs in unison were active on social networks within minutes of each other to impose this narrative. “Rather than facts or precise data the important thing is to push the working hypothesis that the FANB action targeted the camps of ‘FARC dissidents’ who do not obey the orders of Jesús Santrich and Iván Márquez. This means, other FARC dissidents”, the media outlet states in a tweet.
2) After the first publications (Galindo and Hernandez), other regular propagandists such as Javier Tarazona (Fundaredes), (11:32), Luis Borjas (11:50) and the Colombian Olguin Mayorga (11:43) come into action. FronteraViva legitimizes the messages by citing them as sources. pic.twitter.com/GGKN5fm65y
– La Tabla (@latablablog) March 24, 2021
One of the main promoters of this campaign was the pro-Uribe journalist, Olguin Mayorga, who became one of the main sources for international media such as ABC, a Spanish extreme right-wing media that immediately assumed as truth what Mayora presented. None of the journalists or media outlets that reported on the events were on the scene.
The orchestrated nature of the plan became evident when the alarmist speech of the pro-Uribe journalist was followed by a call to the Presidency of Colombia to intervene. “I believe that there must be a response, since the Colombian population was put at risk and all IHL were violated”, he said.
There are so many dead, left by the attack on the civilian population, I think there must be a response from @infopresidencia, because the Colombian population was put at risk and all IHL were violated. pic.twitter.com/kGwOp0sa56
– OLGUIN MAYORGA (@OLGUIN_MAYORGA) March 23, 2021
According to the Venezuelan media, what Mayorga said did not correspond to a bombing of the civilian population in the border area with Arauquita, a Colombian municipality, but to an explosion at a gas plant in El Tejero, Venezuelan state of Monagas, news that was reported by another journalist.
The attempt to impose the narrative that those causing the deaths on the border were indeed “the enemies” of the government of Iván Duque (the “dictatorship of Maduro” and the Colombian “insurgent group”, was also marked by absurdities and false news that they sought to force into the context of the real events of last Sunday, March 21.
The little information that circulated at that time and in the first days that followed was a breeding ground for speculation and false news in social networks. However, the failure of the speakers to agree gradually dismantled the “script” that was “dictated” to them.
Last Monday, March 22, the Minister of Defense, G/J Vladimir Padrino López, announced the armed combat between the FANB and Colombian irregular groups that took place a day before in the town of La Coromoto in Apure State. The confrontation took place in the middle of operation Bolivarian Shield 2021, activated at the beginning of March by the Strategic Operational Command of the FANB (CEOFANB) to increase the military readiness of the country and maintain Venezuelan military presence in said zone. The result was two military personnel dead and several wounded.
The authorities also confirmed that they neutralized alias “Nando” and captured 32 other members of the armed group, as well as seizing weapons, war equipment, explosives, vehicles and drugs. In addition, six camps were destroyed.
Although the right-wing press linked to Duque wanted to use the FARC as an informational flashpoint because it is one of its news wildcards, this type of determinism is complex if one takes into account the complexity of a territory permeated by the conflicts that occur on the Colombian side, with numerous actors and interests.
The daily report of the Samuel Robinson Institute for Original Thought of this Monday, March 29, states:
“The Department of Arauca, bordering Venezuela, has two distinct geographic cut-off points: the piedmont and the low plains that constitute a geospatial continuity with western Venezuela. The first zone was historically dominated by the guerrillas until the Peace Agreement, while the second has had a varying presence of paramilitary groups linked to drug trafficking and other illegal economies”.
The report also mentions that due to several factors “the plains of Arauca have become war zones for the control of drug trafficking routes that at the same time are trying to expand towards Venezuela through its exit to the Caribbean”.
The presence of security agencies on this side has been a stumbling block in the realization of these plans. As it is known, drug trafficking has received strong blows from the Venezuelan government through drug seizures, downing of aircrafts, destruction of clandestine runways, among others. The head of the National Anti-Drug Superintendence (SNA) of Venezuela, M/G Richard López, stated in a recent interview for Últimas Noticias that “it is irresponsible to speak of drug cartels” in the country.
After the fighting, the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ) issued a communiqué in which it stated that the FANB was facing a dissident factor of the FARC commanded by alias “Gentil Duarte”, the first commander who refused to accept the 2016 peace accords and maintains an intransigent position to achieve reunification with the dissidence of La Nueva Marquetalia, led by alias “Iván Márquez” and alias “Jesús Santrich”, arguing that all those who negotiated are traitors.
“The center of the actions of this group is centered on drug trafficking, which has allowed them to obtain a solid financial base that assures them logistics and accelerated growth. To this end, it has been turning the territories under its influence into a base of operations for drug trafficking,” reads the communiqué.
On the other hand, it points out the link of one of the commanders of one of the alleged fronts involved in the conflict in Apure, alias “Arturo”, with the Colombian State, for which he would be used, also, as a destabilizing factor against Venezuela according to the interventionist agenda of the United States.
In this regard, the Venezuelan Minister of Defense has been quite emphatic concerning the intolerance of any factor that threatens the sovereignty and tranquility of this territory, which is contrary to the forced attempt to establish links between the FANB, the Colombian irregular groups and drug trafficking.
Alleged abuses against civilians
Days after the clash between the Colombian armed groups and the Army, on Thursday, March 25, an unofficial report was disseminated on social networks including material of criminalistic interest and photos of five people killed. Also, audiovisual material from family members denying the link of the deceased with criminal gangs.
#On the afternoon of THURSDAY 25 MAR, an unofficial report and photos of a confrontation between security forces and an armed group were disseminated in RRSS, resulting in the death of 5 people. Relatives identified 4 as the Ramírez Remolina family and denied any links to violent gangs. pic.twitter.com/c2wcjrYS0K
– La Tabla (@latablablog) March 27, 2021
Subsequently, the Attorney General of the Republic, Tarek William Saab, appointed a joint commission made up of 12 experts from the Human Rights Protection and Criminology units that was sent to the plains state “in order to clarify the events that occurred in El Ripial”.
2) The 12 experts sent by @MinpublicoVE will carry out #technical inspections at the sites of the event, planimetric experts, ballistic trajectory experts, autopsy protocols, among others necessary to establish possible actions in violation of #HumanRights.
– Tarek William Saab (@TarekWiliamSaab) March 27, 2021
This action was coordinated together with the Minister of Defense, who said that the action of the Attorney General’s Office would give “greater transparency to everything that happens in the south of Apure state”.
It is striking that in the midst of Operation Bolivarian Shield 2021, there is never official “news”, supposedly leaked or taken in the field, which stages a situation of violation of human rights at a time when an attempt is being made to expand a dossier against Venezuela.
The Colombian media, social networks and organizations also worked together to amplify the human displacement caused by the conflict zone. Always trying to criminalize the government of Nicolás Maduro.
“How a lamentable consequence of harboring terrorists 3,961 Venezuelans have had to be displaced because of a terrorist incursion in their country”: @JuanFEspinosaP pic.twitter.com/k7LVVyL9ojO
– Migration Colombia (@MigracionCol) March 25, 2021
Colombian authorities who have taken advantage of Venezuelan migration but have not benefited from the resources that the country receives for migrants, now expressed concern by opening “eight shelters with the support of the international community. We are carrying out a process of assessment of these 128 families who are undergoing Covid tests”.
“When the bombs fell I felt so nervous,” Niomar Diaz, a young displaced person, told Reuters. “In one house a grandfather died, an eight-year-old boy, a nine-year-old boy and his mother. The situation was terrible,” reports France24.
The French media suggested that the displaced fled because of abuses of power and arbitrary arrests by the FANB. “Human Rights Watch (HRW) also claimed to have ‘received credible allegations of abuses by Venezuelan security forces,’ reported the NGO’s director for the Americas, Jose Miguel Vivanco.”
A few days later, the return to the Venezuelan side of citizens living in La Victoria who had crossed to the Colombian side to take temporary refuge in Arauquita was reported. The Venezuelan government denounced the implementation of psychological warfare on behalf of Colombian armed groups.
8. More than 600 #Venezuelans have returned to their country, they were received by the #FANB here the images that reach us pic.twitter.com/12VbHMDDpap
– Madelein Garcia (@madeleintlSUR) March 28, 2021
On March 26, in the framework of the International Day of the People’s Right to Rebellion, the leaders of La Nueva Marquetalia, a FARC dissidence led by alias “Iván Márquez” and distinct in its denomination of origin from the one led by alias “Gentil Duarte”, reappeared. During his message he called to inaugurate “a new era of peace, social justice, democracy and social” under the same banner that would take them to the Nariño Palace.
However, according to La Tabla, the media focused on the Russian AK 103 weapons used by the FANB, ignoring the speech of “Márquez”.
It is noteworthy that the media coverage given to the dissemination of the video was limited to highlighting the characteristics and markings of the weaponry exhibited by Márquez and his group in front of the cameras. No media has referred to the content of the speech. pic.twitter.com/tSWJTK93TD
– La Tabla (@latablablog) March 28, 2021
Right-wing media and the Colombian government have not observed formalities when it comes to establishing any connection forced between the irregular forces that have a presence in that country and the Bolivarian Revolution.
This Monday 29, the Venezuelan Minister of Defense denounced that armed groups from the neighboring country continue to intimidate the border population under the protection of the Colombian authorities.
Colombian irregular groups attack us with explosives and long arms. They continue to instill terror in the population and believe that by harassing military bases they will intimidate us. They cross the river, make their skirmishes and return to Colombia with the protection of its authorities.
– Vladimir Padrino L. (@vladimirpadrino) March 29, 2021
Meanwhile, the media, which serve as war laboratories, continue to publish false news about what is happening on the border. The photos circulating do not correspond to recent events and seek to generate “confusion and anxiety in the national and international public opinion,” says the FANB press.
#ATTENTION: Media laboratories adverse to the Bolivarian Government are taking advantage of the situation that is being generated in #Apure, seeking with false information, to generate anguish, confusion and anxiety in the national and international public opinion.
DO NOT ECHO FALSE NEWS! pic.twitter.com/YvmGsm7gr1
– @ceofanb (@Libertad020) March 29, 2021
A week after the clashes at the border, it is evident that any event can become an opportunity to attack the Bolivarian Government with the intention of gathering forces for a regime change in Venezuela, objectives in which the same political actors, media and other subjects with projection in social networks participate.