The Bolivarian government of Venezuela has formally requested the support of the United Nations to remove anti-personnel landmines installed by Colombian irregular armed groups in the border area of Apure state.
Minister of Defense, Vladimir Padrino López, informed of the communications from Caracas to the United Nations during a press conference on Monday, April 5th. Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the UN, Samuel Moncada, sent a letter to Ilene Cohn, head of the UN Mine Action Service, official requesting the impartial expertise and technical support for the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) to clear the border area of minefields and protect Venezuelan territory from the conflict in Colombia.
Venezuela, which has fulfilled its international commitments and obligations to remove, destroy and prohibit anti-personnel landmines, was declared free of landmines on May 27, 2003. Padrino López says that Colombia now wants to export its landmines to Venezuela.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza penned a letter to UN Secretary General António Guterres asking that he interject and help establish a direct communication channel between the relevant state authorities of Colombia and Venezuela in order to resolve the issues on the border. Another more detailed letter from Minister Arreaza to the UN Security Council Presidency explains the situation in Apure, describing the violence spreading over the Colombian-Venezuelan border rooted in Colombia’s internal conflict, with serious effects on Venezuelan populations. The letter states that “Colombia has decided to return to war.”
Padrino López informed that as of April 5th, 16 anti-personnel mines had been deactivated by the FANB throughout the area surrounding La Victoria. Eight members of the Venezuelan military were killed since Operation Bolivarian Shield 2021 began on March 21st, and 34 have been injured. 33 people involved in criminal events in Apure state have been detained, with nine killed. Six camps have been dismantled.
President Nicolas Maduro says the criminal organizations “are organic groups articulated to the Colombian Army, to the government of Iván Duque” that “dress up as guerrillas to serve drug trafficking” and says Colombia has ceded its border to crime, smugglers, armed groups and drug trafficking, while the limited police and military presence in the area “is subordinated to irregular groups.”
With the objective of guaranteeing internal order, safety and human rights, the FANB will be designing and executing special public security plans to confront crime and destabilizing actions around the border zone, as a result of the Colombian government’s lack of political-military will. Security measures will include the implementation of restrictions and controls together with municipal and regional authorities.