Colombian President Iván Duque recently announced the creation of a new elite commando unit within the country’s armed forces, slated to begin operations in May 2021. The stated purpose of the unit is to fight drug trafficking organizations and Marxist rebels based out of neighboring Venezuela. As reported by Noticiero Digital, a well known center to center-right leaning Venezuelan media outlet, Duque stated that these groups are “protected” by Nicolás Maduro’s government in Venezuela.

According to the article, Colombian intelligence estimates that approximately 1,400 members of armed groups operate out of Venezuela, conducting crossborder operations in Colombia. An article in La Jornada, a popular and generally left-leaning Mexican daily with reporting throughout Latin America, notes that Duque singled out guerrilla groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the National Liberation Army (ELN), in his announcement. Despite the Colombian government signing a peace accord with the FARC in 2016, dissident members of the group remain active; the ELN, moreover, was not a party to that agreement. As one of the most capable armed forces in the region, Colombia’s decision could shape the operational environment if its new commandos are able to add serious weight to the fight against transnational guerrilla groups. Duque did not say whether the elite unit would carry out cross-border missions or operate within Colombia only.

According to Colombian military intelligence, there are about 1,400 members of Colombian armed groups in Venezuela, who
travel on both sides of the border. “There is no refuge here, wherever the criminals are, justice has to come,” Duque warned.

Source: “Colombia crea comando élite para combatir guerrilleros y narcos ‘protegidos’ por Maduro (Colombia creates elite command to fight guerrillas and narcos ‘protected’ by Maduro),” Noticiero Digital (well-known center to center-right Venezuelan media outlet), 8 February 2021. https://www.noticierodigital.com/2021/02/colombia-crea-comando-elite-para-combatir-guerrilleros-y-narcos-protegidos-por-maduro/

According to Colombian military intelligence, there are about 1,400 members of Colombian armed groups in Venezuela, who travel on both sides of the border. “There is no refuge here, wherever the criminals are, justice has to come,” Duque warned… Colombia has constantly denounced that Venezuela shelters Colombian rebels, something that the Chavista administration has denied and calls “ fake news.”

Source: “Colombia crea comando élite para combatir guerrilleros de las FARC (Colombia creates elite command to fight FARC guerrillas),” La Jornada (popular and left-leaning Mexican daily with reporting throughout Latin America), 8 February 2021. https://www.jornada.com.mx/notas/2021/02/08/mundo/colombia-crea-comando-elite-para-combatir-guerrilleros-de-las-farc/

Among the “high value targets” the president cited former FARC guerrillas who broke away from the 2016 peace agreement such as Iván Márquez, Jesús Santrich, Hernán Darío Velásquez, known as ‘El Paisa’, Henry Castellanos, alias ‘Romaña’ , among others. Also on the list are members of the National Liberation Army (ELN), the last recognized active guerrilla in Colombia, and of the Clan del Golfo, the country’s largest drug gang.

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