Tancol in Arauca-Apure: NATO’s Projection into Latin America?

Misión Verdad
The border between Venezuela and Colombia at the Arauca River has been heating up again since the beginning of 2022 (Photo: Archive).

The violence that has recently occurred on the border between Venezuela and Colombia, specifically in the municipality of Paez in the state of Apure, should be regarded as a symptom of lines of tension that are being created with very concrete geopolitical interests in mind.

There are weighty elements to analyze these events as a projection of the tension created by the Atlantist axis against Russia from Ukraine, into which the European Union has been drawn, due to the latest movements of Uribism in the Colombian government with respect to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Recent events

The Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) resumed the deployment of military troops in the border of the Arauca River after the clashes that Colombian armed groups have been sustaining since the end of 2021: they are the 10th Front of the so-called dissidences of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the current National Liberation Army (ELN).

The Venezuelan State has named these groups Tancol: an acronym for Terroristas Armados Narcotraficantes de Colombia (Armed Terrorist Drug Traffickers of Colombia), in order to determine their operational and origin denomination and, therefore, their distinction from other irregular groups in the region.

General in Chief Domingo Hernández Lárez, general commander of the Strategic Operational Command of the FANB, announced the dispatch of groups of soldiers from the states of Lara and Cojedes to reinforce the military presence in the area, which occurs a few months after Operation Bolivarian Shield.

Carrying out orders from our Commander in Chief @NicolasMaduro and the Minister of PP for Defense.
GJ @vladimirpadrino the #FANB will fight against TANCOL groups in any of their forms! Whatever you call them! Independence or nothing! pic.twitter.com/yPBfx9dgT1

– GJ. Domingo Hernández Lárez (@dhernandezlarez) January 16, 2022

On the other side of the border, the first armed encounter between the ELN and the FARC’s 10th Front occurred in the Los Cañitos sector of La Victoria, resulting in seven deaths, as reported two days later by Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano.

President Iván Duque arrived in the department of Arauca to supervise the deployment of his military forces in the area, which, according to the press, reached 600 troops that would make that regional entity the most militarized in the neighboring country.

That same day, the police station in the town of Betoyes, in the municipality of Tame, was attacked with fragmentation bombs, and on January 19, representatives of the FARC’s 28th Front claimed responsibility for the car bomb attacks in the city of Saravena. Some buses and public forces were also attacked by this group in a violent day that left 33 people killed and 500 displaced.

On the same day that Duque held a security council in Arauca, the ELN posted on social networks photographs of the armed takeover of the village of La Esmeralda, Arauquita municipality.

ELN members in the village of La Esmeralda in the municipality of Arauquita were photographed while Duque was visiting the area (Photo: Archive).

The following day the self-government of the Simón Bolívar Communal City, located in the municipality of Páez in Apure state, denounced the seizure of the town of La Gabarra by at least 50 irregular ELN troops. The organized community issued a communiqué expressing its rejection to this new incursion of the so-called Tancol which directly affects their daily life, besides constituting a violation of sovereignty. The text reports that:

“More than 50 armed men have taken the town of La Gabarra, in the purest style of a foreign occupation army […] We demand both armed actors, both ELN and FARC, to take their conflict elsewhere, that Venezuela, Apure and Ciudad Comunal Simón Bolívar is a territory of peace, sovereignty and popular democracy”.

The socialist communal city Simón Bolívar covers 116,000 hectares in which 7,600 people live in 42 communal councils, grouped in eight communes in the parishes of Guasdualito and San Camilo (El Nula) of the municipality of Páez.

Recently, Colombian media published a video in which “Nelson Sánchez”, an alleged deserter of the FARC’s 10th Front, affirms that “Romaña” and “El Paisa” were murdered last December by a group of 26 mercenaries among which there were two “gringos”. The dead were two former leaders of that group who abandoned the Peace Accord and founded a dissidence called the Second Marquetalia together with alias “Ivan Marquez”.

The deserter indicated that he was under the command of “Jaime Chucula”, who has a direct connection with the Colombian State and in turn received orders from Arturo Ruiz, in charge of receiving the mercenaries in a camp “who disembark them at night by helicopter”.

In another part of his statement he relates that “Comrade Jaime was in charge of assigning them the mission of destroying any type of group that smells of revolution… the 26 that arrived had the mission of killing Comrade ‘Romaña’ and Comrade ‘Paisa'”. He also said that a shipment of sophisticated weapons and high range drones and border surveillance scopes arrived unloaded at the Venezuelan side of the border, in a town known as Esmeralda, and among the boxes also came boots, uniforms and even “anti-tank weapons”.

What has changed since 2021?

To answer this question, it is worthwhile to recount what happened in the Alto Apure region until 2021 and how what was a collateral effect of the war in Colombia is now part of a plan to deconfigure the notion of the State in Venezuela. In this regard, this forum has conducted research that clarifies the picture in a profound way.

The key point lies in the deep relationship between the Colombian narco, the State today presided over by Iván Duque, the Mexican cartels and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. It is already known how on the Colombian side a circuit of non-state armed groups has been established as part of an agreement that seems to be established between the State and national and transnational para-economic actors to “lubricate” their economic activities based on drug trafficking.

Pdte. @NicolasMaduro warned that part of the strategy of the Colombian oligarchy is to infiltrate our country of Armed Terrorist Groups, Drug Traffickers of Colombia, better known as TANCOL. pic.twitter.com/QBhzbeEnrk

– Presidential Press (@PresidencialVen) September 30, 2021

In addition, NGOs such as the Progresar Foundation’s Human Rights Observatory have geo-referenced the presence of 12 Colombian illegal armed structures operating along the borders with Venezuela, including criminal groups and forces called “dissidents” of the FARC, paramilitary groups Los Rastrojos, Los Urabeños, the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC), Black Eagles, the National Liberation Army (ELN), among others.

The movements of a faction of the FARC dissidents, specifically the 10th Front led by “Gentil Duarte” and “Arturo” led to a confrontation between these irregular groups coming from Colombia and the security forces of the Bolivarian Republic that caused both deaths and kidnappings of Venezuelan troops, in addition to the terror instilled by the corporate media inside and outside the border communities of the Apure-Arauca axis.

The trigger at the beginning of 2021 was the series of damages inflicted by the FANB to aircrafts and shipments of illicit substances, among other drug trafficking tools, since January of that year in what became a strategic corridor for being geographically flat for air shipments to Mexico and the porosity of the border.

In February of that year Venezuela implemented Operation Bolivarian Shield 2021 within the framework of the joint military exercises “Supreme Commander Hugo Chávez Frías 2021”, activated by the CEOFANB) whose purpose was to “increase the operational readiness of the Bolivarian National Armed Force, combat and expel internal and external threats and Colombian armed groups that could be found in the nation”. In the same month, there were confrontations with a cell of irregular groups coming from Colombia in three sectors in the surroundings of Puerto Ayacucho, capital of Amazonas State, after it was located through patrolling and search by CEOFANB units.In 2020, an aircraft with U.S. acronym dedicated to drug trafficking was neutralized by the FANB (Photo: Archive).

Also in that month the FANB dismantled eight camps, destroyed eight drug landing sites and seized an aircraft with false license plates, solar panels, uniforms and war material in the Pedro Camejo municipality of Apure state. At that time Últimas Noticias reported that “for two weeks there were confrontations between the State security forces and the subversive groups present in the area of the Pedro Camejo municipality”.

In March, armaments, grenades, ammunition, explosives, military clothing, vehicles, drug packages and technological equipment containing information related to the activities of the Colombian irregular group were seized in the midst of a confrontation that included the positioning of anti-personnel mines in the vicinity of the camps where they operated; the execution of psychological warfare campaigns on the population of the invaded territory through social networks and WhatsApp chains to create social panic, recruit local operators and try to inoculate an anti-government sentiment through fake news and other infowar mechanisms and the attack on public institutions and infrastructure (CORPOELEC, SENIAT and PDVSA) with heavy weapons and explosives.

On the other hand, last December 8, Molano met with NATO Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Mircea Geoană, and they agreed on a new cooperation framework, the Individualized Partnership Program, which marks the beginning of an even closer cooperation. As is known Colombia became the “global partner” of the Atlantic alliance in 2018, and the first in Latin America, thus NATO supports the neighboring country “in its continued efforts to develop its armed forces, while Colombia provides demining training to NATO Allies and other partner countries.”

The note further states that the new program “encompasses areas of enhanced cooperation such as interoperability, integrity building, training and education, as well as new areas such as climate change and security”.

Regarding the initial question, it can be observed that what has changed has been the confrontation on the other side of the border as it has worsened and the war is recycled in Colombia. In particular, the department of Arauca is the scene of confrontations between irregular groups in which the Colombian State is another catalyst because it has become an NATOist military megabase that, seeking to include Venezuela in its war and balkanize the country, carries out operations in violation of Venezuelan sovereignty.

An angle of analysis, which allows linking the events in the Arauca-Apure border, has its vertex in the way NATO itself has heightened the tension around the alleged threat of Russia to Ukraine, in which propaganda, as part of the infowar, plays a starring role.

From Ukraine to Colombia, NATOist coincidences

The differences between Ukraine and Colombia are evident and extensive, however there are coincidences between both countries such as the deliberate and permanent violation of agreements such as the peace agreements signed by the Colombian State with the FARC in 2016 and the Minsk agreements signed in September 2014 and in February 2015, the latter in order to avoid ethnic cleansing operations executed by the army and Nazi groups against the populations of the proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk that declared their separation from Ukraine and annexation to Russia after the Maidan.

There is a greater coincidence in the censorship of the globalized press of these violations, avoiding reporting them or holding responsible the States that exercise mechanisms of dirty war under the direct support of the Western axis, that is to say, NATO with the United States at the head. The war against the inhabitants of eastern Ukraine has already caused 14 thousand deaths, these are territories historically and culturally linked to Russia, 98% of the population is Russian-speaking and has acquired Russian nationality.

NATO, however, has set a date and figures for an alleged invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces: early 2022 with at least 175,000 troops. In this way it hides the maneuvers of the Atlantic alliance, its coordination meetings, the increase in contributions for arms expenditure, which amounts to 2% of the GDP in one third of the members of the organization formed by 30 nations, which translates into the highest concentration of troops, arms and military budget in the world.

The United States alone had a 2021 military budget of $811 billion, Great Britain with $72 billion, Germany with $64 billion and France with $59 billion; such figures, and especially together, far exceed the $66 billion budget of the Russian Federation.

If it seems that the infowar has reached the extreme, there are media such as El Mundo of Spain ready to unblock new levels by copying communiqués from the State Department.

U.S. and NATO military installations around Russia demolish the “Russian threat” narrative (Photo: RT).

One detail: in 2015, under EuCom (United States European Command), command of US troops in Europe, the Pentagon sent “military experts to increase Ukraine’s defensive capabilities” and allocated $46 million to deliver to Kiev “military hardware, including vehicles and night vision devices.”

There are also NATOist relapses

Likewise, while establishing a warmongering narrative against Venezuela by escalating elements of the Colombian internal war to threats against the Venezuelan territory, drug trafficking is made a spearhead that violates the tranquility of border populations and national sovereignty and justifies the presence of the Otanist presence up to the Venezuelan border.

In this way, transnational corporations, mega-projects of extractive companies and narco-paramilitarism seek to soften up a geostrategic region because of its access to oil reserves, water, minerals and other natural resources through warlike and infodemic agitation.

Different military sites in the department of Arauca and other border entities have the advice, training and support of U.S. military, such as the Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB), which are “specialized units with the central mission of carrying out training, advising, assisting, enabling and accompanying activities with allied and partner nations” so there would be reason to put the focus on the statements of “Nelson Sanchez”.

For its part, the ELN has denounced that one of the Hybrid War operations carried out by the SFAB is “to form and operate with groups posing as successors of the demobilized FARC, such as that of alias Arturo, tactics known as ‘killing with someone else’s dagger'”.

Last year in declarations to the media G/J Vladimir Padrino López, Venezuelan Minister of Defense, denounced the “infoxication” operations linked to the fourth generation war in process. This has had its expression in the media attempt by the corporate press to impose the narrative that those causing the deaths on the border have been precisely “the enemies” of the government of Iván Duque (the “dictatorship of Maduro” and the Colombian “insurgent group”), just as were notable the dislates and fake news that were attempted to be forced in 2021 to enter into the context of the real events.

In favor of this was the little information that circulated at that time and in the first days that followed, were breeding ground for speculation and spreading hoaxes in social networks, but the dictated script was falling down due to what could be called a “lack of coordination” among media spokespersons.

A recurrence is in the determination of the Global North to impose a narrative of “failed state” against Venezuela, in that sense the gestation of multiform crises in Venezuelan territory would evolve into forceful actions of the international community under the diffuse doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Last year, the former opposition deputy supported by Washington, Juan Guaidó, tried to sell an adverse narrative to Operation Bolivarian Shield 2021 by portraying it as a sequence of acts violating the human rights of the border communities of Alto Apure.

The Duque administration joined this narrative by blaming Venezuela for the fact that almost 5,000 Venezuelan migrants fled Apure due to the fighting, and for the “serious humanitarian effects on civil society” resulting from the CEOFANB operation. Without ceasing to make appeals to the “international community” while ignoring the war they sustain and feed.

The operations of the groups that were later named Tancol by President Maduro included the criminal use of people displaced by drug trafficking and clashes as human shields to cross from the Venezuelan side to the neighboring side, a tactic qualified as a war crime under the Rome Statute.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Bogota released a report stating how 72,300 people had to flee their homes during 159 mass displacement emergencies between January and November 2021, an increase of 62% in the number of events and 196% in the number of displaced people, compared to the same period in 2020, when 24,469 victims were reported, which when including December of that year totaled 26,291.

78% of displaced persons in Colombia belong to indigenous peoples, however the media narrative focused on Operation Bolivarian Shield 2021 (Photo: Archive).

The causes of mass displacements are mainly linked (33%) to pamphlets, calls and other methods to frighten the population of threats by Non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs), while clashes between these groups generate 24% of displacements and another 9% is due to harassment. Only 26% (19,229 people) have been able to return to their places of origin, mostly without security guarantees.

“There is evidence of a territorial expansion of non-state armed groups (…) which leads to an increase of confrontations and consequently of the humanitarian impact generated on the civilian population”, highlighted the report issued.

Recently, Minister Padrino López made mention of the movements of the Atlantic alliance as part of its projection towards Latin America, referring in particular to the agreements with Colombia and the second joint training between the military forces of Brazil and the United States that took place within the framework of the CORE (Combined Operations and Rotation Exercises) initiative, signed by the parties in October 2020 to “increase interoperability” between their armies.

NATO intends to take over the world by extending further into Eastern Europe. At the same time the transatlantic organization is projecting itself into Latin America with Colombia as a pawn and the increasingly determined presence of military and naval means in our area of influence And then? pic.twitter.com/JfrcgScSEs

– Vladimir Padrino L. (@vladimirpadrino) January 17, 2022

It is worth noting that last year Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro authorized the “entry” and “temporary stay” of a contingent of U.S. troops consisting of 240 military personnel for joint training that took place from November 28 to December 18 in Brazil. In addition to the U.S. troops, the entry of “weapons, accessories, ammunition, optronics, optical devices and sensors, and command, control and communication equipment” was also allowed, according to the decree issued.

Much has been contributed from different analyses about how the supposed abandonment of the Colombian State to the border territories is, in reality, part of a plan to increase the effectiveness of drug trafficking as a “lubricant” of the hemispheric economy, the main reason for the jealous protectorate of the DEA and the U.S. Army. Hence the little interest in the fulfillment of the peace accords and the little attention to the violent displacements of civilians that continue to break records while paramilitary groups and other groups such as the 10th Front of the FARC dissidents expand their zones of influence.

Thus their financial mechanisms are being strengthened with Mexican cartels, U.S. banks, U.S. government agencies such as the DEA, actors directly linked to Uribism and feeding the huge profits of the military industrial complex, the economic heart of NATO, which is no coincidence.

Translation by Internationalist 360°