Colombia’s defense minister reiterated the importance of coordinating with Venezuelan authorities to defeat guerrillas and drug traffickers along the border region Wednesday.
During a visit to Cucuta, in Colombia’s northeast, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said, “We will make operations along the border and I will speak with the Venezuelan government to recommend that their plans be similar to ours.”
On July 12, the defense minister began a month-long tour of the country to determine security needs in local communities. Colombia’s northern departments have long experienced high criminal and rebel activity rates.
On Tuesday, in a raid against the criminal syndicate, “Los Rastrojos,” the National Police confiscated 55 guns, supplies and large amounts of ammunition, valued at over $90,000, in the department of Norte de Santander, located along the Venezuelan border.
Venezuela is currently in the process of modernizing its arsenal, procuring hundreds of thousands of new weapons. A possible consequence could be the flow of guns from older military stockpiles into the hands of armed militias and drug trafficking groups, such as the Rastrojos.
Following the raid, Pinzon commented: “This is a department in which there are many important challenges so we’re going to give the signal (…) that we are very interested in working to improve the safety of the inhabitants of this region.”
Colombia has also embraced stronger ties with its southern neighbor. On June 25, Ecuador’s minister of security, Homero Arellano, assured the Colombian government his country was taking steps to strengthen security at its shared northern border, in order to reduce the presence of illegal armed groups.
The increasing collaboration between Colombia and her immediate neighbors marks an improvement in regional relations since 2008, when both Ecuador and Venezuela severed diplomatic ties with the Uribe administration.