Some 4,000 Colombian guerrillas are camped in Venezuela, the governor of that country’s most southern state said Thursday.
Governor Liborio Guarulla of the Amazonas state told opposition television network Globovision that the guerrillas were initially pushed into his state’s territory to evade persecution by the Colombian government under President Alvaro Uribe, but have since settled and increasingly are involved in illegal mining and drug trafficking in the southern region.
“There are more than 4,000 troops of the guerrillas on Venezuelan territory,” said Guarulla, explaining that claim is based on rebel camps found in his state.
“The situation is quite serious, because initially they entered as refugees for the persecution by Uribe … Now they are involved in the mines and have been trying to indoctrinate indigenous peoples,” the governor explained.
“This is a violation of our sovereignty; the extraction of our minerals and all implied with drug trafficking,” said Guarulla.
The governor told the television network he has notified national and regional bodies about the alleged mass rebel incursion on several occasions, but no adequate action has been undertaken.
While uribe was in office, Colombia has made numerous accusations that Venezuela was harboring FARC guerrillas within its borders.
The Venezuelan government has always vehemently denied the allegations and maintains Venezuela is not a guerrilla safe haven. Following the inauguration of President Juan Manuel Santos, the thorny issue was taken off the public bilateral agenda and discussed behind closed doors.
According to Colombia’s defense ministry, Colombian rebel groups FARC and ELN have no more than 10,000 members.