By Staff Writer Eric Sousa
The conflict between Venezuela and Colombia is a powder keg waiting to go off, with recent rhetoric between the two governments pushing the situation one step closer to combustion. An immigrant crisis, which has been occurring since 2015, has grown into a many-headed hydra that may involve multiple countries, including the United States.
Colombian senator, Pablo Catatumbo, recently voiced concerns for the nation that he loves. Mediation is crucial between these nations, but the involved governments showed no signs of slowing the runaway train themselves. He called for outside assistance in ending the conflict, calling upon Pope Francis by name for the mediation. This is in response to recent re-establishments of guerilla rebel groups in Colombia.
Senator Pablo Catatumbo has experience with rebel groups, as he used to be a leader of the FARC. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia was a guerilla group that fought against the Colombian government. They were one of many groups involved in Colombia’s civil war that lasted several decades. The FARC was disbanded in 2017, in accords with a peace treaty signed by newly instated Catatumbo in a political position. This marked the end of that particular guerilla group.
However, the FARC has recently released a video stating that they will be returning to their old dogmas, and become an active guerilla group once again. In addition to this controversy, it is widely believed that the video was shot in Venezuela. In the past, this group has used Venezuela as a base of operations for training recruits and living quarters. This partnership would allow the FARC to have a farther reaching influence in a present setting.
As the days go by, numbers of crimes committed against the fleeing Colombian immigrants rockets. The forcibly displaced Colombians, deported from Venezuela, fared no better treatment on Colombian soil contaminated with the FARC. Often, they suffered abuse and displacement. Reports state they are forcing children from their homes to bolster their numbers.
All of this adds to the already tensed relationship between Venezuela and many states. This is due to the highly scrutinized 2018 Venezuelan election. Nicolas Maduro won through subterfuge and foul play, causing the world to react. Instead of seceding, Maduro poised military drills along the Colombian barrier.
These military drills were Venezuela’s response to the US and Colombia’s vocal response against Maduro’s re-election. Full military drills were conducted, in which tanks made an appearance in addition to fully armed and provisioned military personnel. This display of confidence is directed at the nations who oppose it.
On Monday, September 23rd, 19 Latin nations and the US are met to discuss the Venezuela situation. There was a discussion about increasing pressure against Venezuela, including multiple immediate sanctions against the government.
This regional treaty, popularly known as the Rio Treaty, or Rio Pact, was supported by 16 of the 19 involved nations on Monday. This means that the planned sanctions are fit to go. This treaty was, naturally, publicly denounced by Mr. Maduro. Maduro states that this treaty, which was last enacted 9/11/2001, was a ploy for US military intervention.
There are several moving parts in this historical event, each one as volatile and complex as the one that came before it. As these large forces rage above the border between Colombia and Venezuela, the immigrants remain the primary victims of this burgeoning conflict.
Senator Catatumbo’s plea was vocalized before the committee meeting on the 23rd, but his voice is certainly echoing. He addressed the situation by urging, “these two governments to sanity… go to a major moral and peaceful authority—such as the pope—to intervene and create a dialogue with the two sides.”
Senator Catatumbo closed his address with the statement, “peace cannot continue to be more difficult than waging a war.” At least for the sake of the immigrants caught between these landscape-changing giants, I hope it turns out he’s right.