As Colombia took to the polls for its congressional elections Sunday, the remains of five murdered Colombian citizens were being discovered across the Venezuelan border. The men, whose remains were found outside the town of Ureña, near the eastern Colombian state of Norte de Santender, appeared to have been gunned down and had been missing since Friday, according to the El Tiempo newspaper.
Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon condemned the attack and criticized local authorities for failing to help the families find the men, even after they had been reported missing.
“The relatives of these persons asked for help from the Venezuelan authorities to find the five disappeared individuals. They did not receive support and it fell to them to find the bodies. They found them, and subsequently brought them to Colombia,” said the minister, according to El Tiempo.
A survivor of the attack was said to have claimed the men were shot at while bathing in the Tachira River, which marks the border between Norte de Santander and the Venezuelan state of Tachira.
Little is known about the assailants, but Colombia’s police inspector general, Yesid Vasquez, told Caracol radio that “thanks to the cooperation of Venezuelan officials we are working on leads that will help uncover the facts.”
Various armed groups are known to operate across the shared border, smuggling arms and narcotics, among other things. Cucuta in particular, the capital of Norte de Santander, is a widely used border crossing.
Security concerns in Venezuela led Colombia’s Ministry of Defense to shut down its land borders with its neighbor amid fears that Venezuelan criminals were attempting to enter the country and disrupt Sunday’s elections.
Colombia’s ambassador to Venezuela told Caracol Radio that foreign voting was carried out at 16 consulates in the country without incident, but that less than half the number of voters participated as did in previous elections, a 90% abstention rate on the day.
Tensions between the two countries have flared recently, especially as Venezuelan officials accused Colombian groups of inciting the mass protests that have gripped the country in recent weeks.
Norte de Santander
- Cuerpos de colombianos asesinados en Venezuela siguen en Medicina Legal (Caracol)
- Hallan cuerpos de cinco colombianos en frontera con Venezuela (El Tiempo)