The Ombudsman of Colombia’s Norte de Santander province, on Tuesday asked for urgent intervention by the national government. Five massacres have occurred along the border with Venezuela so far this year.
The spate of killings reflect increasing tensions along the border as rival illegal armed groups vie for territorial control of lucrative drug trafficking and smuggling routes between the two neighboring countries.
Most of the victims are reported to be between 25 and 30 years and of Venezuelan nationality as the emergency along the border escalates.
“It is a very complex situation (…) we have put the problem to the authorities that are living here and we hope that with this visit of the president is effective, to see if they can give us a definitive solution to the problem of murders,” said Ombudsman Jorge Villamizar, to local media.
According to crime website InSight Crime, Colombia’s last standing Marxist rebel group the ELN and the criminal remnants of the EPL guerrillas have recruited dissident members of the now-demobilized FARC to their ranks in the area.
This is in addition to paramilitary groups and other drug trafficking gangs that have long been active in the border region.
As the economic and social crisis continues to unfold across Venezuela, problems along the border are escalating daily with the Colombian province of Norte de Santander one of the worst affected.
“Every day more Venezuelans come to Cucuta and its metropolitan area, and the department does not have how to solve this crisis,” added Villamizar, who is calling on significant action from the Santos administration to alleviate the crisis.
Several human rights organizations have expressed their indignation about the ongoing violence along the border, also calling on Colombia’s national government to intervene.
“We want Colombia to go from speech to action to stop this bloodshed on the border. It is painful what happens there, because of that the State must intervene,”said Javier Tarazona, director of the Venezuelan NGO Networks Foundation, reported El Tiempo.
The increasing violence adds to the spiraling humanitarian crisis that shows no signs of abating .
Diplomatic relations between the Santos administration and the regime of Maduro have gradually deteriorated.
Colombia is currently working with other Latin American countries including Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Peru in order to find a solution to alleviate the crisis.