According to the newspaper, villagers from the native Wayuu community of San Rafael de Paraguachon, located 20 minutes inside the Venezuelan border, claim rebels arrived over a month ago telling locals they were stationed nearby.
“It was a group of 20 people dressed in camouflage, carrying guns and some had hoods on their faces,” Ocarina Uriana, a local Wayuu woman told El Heraldo.
The claims back recent allegations made by the Colombian government that Venezuela is harboring rebel insurgents in its border regions. Last Thursday, Colombia’s ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Alfonso Luis Hoyos, presented the international body with allegations of 87 FAR and ELN camps within Venezuelan borders. The Venezuelan government emphatically denies the accusations, which led the nation’s President Hugo Chavez to break off diplomatic relations with Colombia the same day.
Villagers say the rebels questioned them about family members and occupations before forcing them to make inventories of all their property. They were also told to expect further visits in future.
“That day we were quietly told that they were not going to mess with people, they were just looking for the robbers but could not tell anyone. As my father had a cell phone in his hand, they forced him to give them his number and told him to expect a call in the future announcing their return,” Uriana said.
The camp is believed to be in a mountainous region on the Venezuelan side of the La Guajira peninsula which straddles both countries. The area has been declared “high risk” by the Colombian Ombudsman’s office since last June due to the presence of right-wing paramilitary group “Aguilas Negras,” in its neighbouring department of Uribia. The peninsula is also a major departure point for international human traffickers bringing illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
The community, home to around 40 sheep and goat-farming Wayuu families, say they now live in fear of the guerrillas’ return and many have abandoned their homes. There have been reports of FARC insurgents recruiting local Wayuu children and charging drivers up 150 thousand bolivars (around $60) to pass road blocks.