Armed Conflict in La Victoria, Apure: A Closer Examination of its Characteristics

Eduardo Viloria Daboín

Venezuela is once again in the news all over the world. The world media are devoting space, time and centimeter footage to these events once. Every time this happens, there is a hidden plot behind it. Every time this happens there is a great deal to analyze, to unmask. A first look at what is currently happening in Venezuela, at the facts and the treatment that the media and social networks are giving it, reveals the usual signs that characterize foreign aggression operations, simultaneously and articulately activated, in addition to the economic front that is always being deployed, the media front, the political/civilian front, the diplomatic front and the military front, which is, in the current situation, the epicenter.

To approach this analysis, I must clarify that I rely on sources of different origin: monitoring of social networks and websites, exchange of information and analysis with people dedicated to social communication, mainly audiovisual and digital, and above all, as main input, information and analysis obtained first hand in the field in which the conflict is developing (audios, videos, photographs, interviews, recordings of assemblies, political documents), by comrades from social and political organizations with years of deep experience in the area, and by communicators and popular journalists, militant journalists deployed at this time in the field. This, in addition to our own knowledge of the municipality of Paez and the border dynamics obtained in years of political and communicational militancy in that area of the country.

The armed conflict against Venezuela, so often analyzed and often announced as possible, is now underway, and has begun inside our territory. And it has begun just as the analyses predicted: irregular, hybrid, unconventional, outsourced and replete with different masks.

The task of violating sovereignty, of provocation, of penetration and territorial occupation was assigned to a narco-terrorist group commanded by Alias Arturo, detached and independent from the FARC, fulfilling the task allocated by the Colombian oligarchy through the Colombian government led by Iván Duque.

No armed group, whatever its political ideology, nature or origin will be able to land on our sacred land to commit crimes. There is no other truth than the one announced in a diaphanous and precise manner by the Apureño deputy to the AN Hector Orlando Zambrano. #24Mar pic.twitter.com/tVpCB7uXid

– Vladimir Padrino L. (@vladimirpadrino) March 24, 2021

It is necessary to understand this: the narco-mercenary group commanded by Alias Arturo (and its operations in Venezuelan territory) is just one piece of a whole complex plan of aggression. And it is also necessary to understand that this is not a revolutionary group or movement taking up arms against the oppressive Colombian State, but precisely the opposite: a criminal, mercenary group, at the service of the oligarchy and the Colombian State, not only as part of its control of the drug trafficking business and all forms of the criminal economy, but also as an instrument for the plan of aggression against Venezuela.

On March 21, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces carried out an armed offensive against this group in La Victoria, Apure state, in an operation that was unavoidable given the information gathered in the field about the actions of this group, and given the analysis that indicated that the drug dealers were acting as the spearhead of an operation designed with the perspective of escalating into a much larger conflict.

After ten days, the development of the facts confirms that the FANB offensive was correct. It was necessary to act. The articulated deployment of the operation in all fronts confirms it.

The military front has the characteristics of guerrilla warfare, asymmetric conflict. The operations follow a structured plan of focused attack, attacking small targets, some military and others civilian (the first was the explosion of mines on the day the operation began, in which a major and a lieutenant died; the second was the blowing up of the Seniat and an alcabala; the third was the attack on the Corpoelec truck; the fourth was the blowing up of the Tres Esquinas guardhouse; the fifth was the blowing up of the La Charca guardhouse; the sixth was yesterday’s attack in El Ripial, where a BTR 80M tank was attacked with self-propelled grenades). The operational objective is not so much to inflict military damage but to serve as a base and starting point for psychological and media operations.

The political/civilian front implies, territorially/locally, the penetration of the territory in social terms, the construction of a local social structure of support and collaboration. Also, in a larger dimension, the connection and articulation with Non-Governmental Organizations, political and human rights activists, as well as with institutions of the Colombian State. This includes civil organizations such as Fundaredes, Joel Siera Foundation, Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CPDH), and activists such as Javier Tarazona.

The media front is perhaps the most complex and the most widely deployed of all. It has two lines of action: 1) psychological operations of terror on the local people, 2) construction of international media matrices. The first line is executed mainly through WhatsApp groups created ad hoc by media operators of the narco-terrorist group. There are dozens of these groups in La Victoria, grouping thousands of people. Through these groups, audios, photos, videos, memes, messages are circulated, all aimed at establishing, before the events take place, the central elements of the opinion matrixes; there, in addition, the most direct form of terror, intimidation and threat to the population of La Victoria.

In these groups circulated information, “evidence” and data of what ended up being the media operations on the attacks to the FANB, on the people who have died, as well as alleged human rights violations. What is central here is that the objective of this strategy is to maintain terror over the people so that they continue fleeing to Colombia and so that those who have crossed the border do not return. This, to the extent that the alleged humanitarian crisis of displaced people caused by the clashes and by the massive human rights violations allegedly committed by the FANB, are the discourse with which it intends to internationalize the conflict and escalate it.

The second line of action of the media front is that of the media and social networks. This consists of those who elaborate communicatively the “information” coming from the group and media operators of the narco-mercenaries. It develops as a chain that is activated for the progressive amplification of messages: social network accounts of local media and journalists (for example, Arauquita Activa, Noticias de Arauca Colombia, Replica Arauca-noticias digital) and social network accounts of NGOs and human rights activists such as Fundaredes and Javier Tarazona, PolíticaEntrePanas, Junior Parra, until it is finally internationalized in the form of news with media in Miami, Venezuela and Colombia itself: Infobae, Caracol, NTN24, EVTV Miami, Tal Cual, La Patilla, El Pitazo, VPitv, El Tiempo and a long etcetera.

Dismantling of the alleged new confrontations in “La Charca” and “Tres Esquinas”, Apure.

A media-psycho-terrorist operation loaded with disinformation, generating anxiety, spreading fear and uncertainty with interventionist purposes, and starting on WhatsApp#30Mar pic.twitter.com/qvAnXwQLYT

– ✽ Orlenys 🍁🍃 (@OrlenysOV) March 30, 2021

There is a direct and continuous line between the data, audios, videos and photos distributed by narcomercenary operators in WhatsApp groups and what is published by the media that internationalize them without real investigation or journalistic verification. This is how the objective is achieved. The matrix is sown in the people of the territory and amplified and internationalized to be useful for the political purposes of the plan of aggression.

On the diplomatic front, meanwhile, there are political and media actions which close the circle so that the conflict ceases to be merely a confrontation focused on a territory and becomes one more action of the joint and integral plan directed by the U.S. against Venezuela. It is concretized with declarations of high officials of the Colombian government such as the Minister of Defense, high spokespersons of the US government such as the Chief of the Southern Command, Craig Faller, the introduction of denunciations before the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights by former deputies of the former National Assembly.

These are some elements of the conflict that have just begun, a conflict that we are facing as a nation. It has many edges and is complex. But it has one central feature: it is hybrid, asymmetric and irregular. Therefore, the response, in order to be effective, must be equally hybrid, asymmetric and irregular.

On the ground, the FANB faces an enemy that has decades of experience in guerrilla warfare and terrorist practices and methods, that knows how to move in the shadows because it operates within the networks of the economy of crime, lacking scruples, which has constructed links and support structures in the existing social fabric in the territory where the conflict is taking place and is integrated to that social fabric. It is an enemy that subjugates and oppresses the population, at the same time as it conquers it, by means of threats and intimidation.

In the media, we face a highly organized swarm, technically prepared, technologically equipped, strategically cohesive and directed, and solidly financed not only directly by the U.S. State Department, but also by drug trafficking.

When they lie to you, telling you that the Venezuelan State has not provided social support in La Victoria, Apure State, show this.

Here we see a Colonel of the FANB, in assembly with the community, showing his face, accompanying, protecting.

Social attentions in the thread. 👇🏽#31Mar pic.twitter.com/88PSzLXOB2

– ✽ Orlenys 🍁🍃 (@OrlenysOV) April 1, 2021

Confronting and emerging victorious in the face of this new aggression, implies for Venezuela a simultaneous effort on all battle fronts. In the territory and in the military front, we count on the doctrine of civil-military union, which implies the simultaneous development of armed, political and social actions: the main terrain of this battle is the people of the territory, their affection, their support, their respect, their subjectivity. In the media dimension, it is necessary to confront the deployment of the enemy, to dispute their statements, to dismantle their matrixes and to go on the offensive in the positioning of the truth, which implies an enormous creative, discursive, symbolic and aesthetic effort, as well as an organizational one. In political and civil terms, the gravity of the conflict demands that social and political organizations join, in a cohesive manner and in maximum unity, the battle: solidarity, territorial accompaniment, mobilization, organizational deployment, discussion, debate and information for the truth and clarity of the people throughout the country and in the spectrum of allied (and potentially allied) social and political organizations in the world.

This analysis and brief description of the conflict that has commenced against our Venezuela is intended to contribute to the debate, to sound the alarm, to contribute to the understanding and awareness of the very serious threat to the peace of Venezuela. Each statement and reflection is supported by accurate public and journalistic information, data, territorial sources. The urgency of communicating the arguments and the analysis prevents me from developing, exemplifying, and unraveling each piece of evidence, each piece of data. In successive installments I will do this work.

Translation by Internationalist 360°