Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

Seven African countries' economies at risk over Brexit decision

Read more

THE DEBATE

Britain votes out: What next?

Read more

#TECH 24

The 'fintech' revolution

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

A certified 'palace': How hotels strive for excellence

Read more

#THE 51%

In her own image: Women in Art

Read more

REPORTERS

World War I: When northern France was on German time

Read more

REVISITED

Video: Ugandan city still scarred by Lord's Resistance Army atrocities

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

#Brexit sparks a storm on social media

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Markets, pound plunge on Brexit vote

Read more

Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

FOCUS

FOCUS

Latest update : 2009-12-30

Neighbourly friction

Ever since Bogota announced the arrival of more US troops in Colombia to combat the drugs trade, Venezuela has been convinced that a military attack is being hatched to topple its controversial leader, the very anti-imperialist Hugo Chavez. In the border town of San Antonio, the war against Colombia is no longer a bluff.

Ever since Bogota announced the arrival of more US troops in Colombia to combat the drugs trade, Venezuela has been convinced that a military attack is being hatched to topple its controversial leader, the very anti-imperialist Hugo Chavez.


“If you want peace, prepare for war”, repeats Hugo Chavez, over and over. In San Antonio del Tachira, right on the border with Colombia, the reinforcements have already arrived. Every day, Venezuelan army vehicles drive up and down the streets... jeeps, armoured cars, more than a hundred troops in all... It's a routine mission for these soldiers of the Bolivarian National Guard, responsible for border security.The locals look on, bemused. Here we just get on with family life, says a passer-by, Norega Vega, we're not doing anything wrong.”
 
In San Antonio, the war against Colombia is no longer a bluff. The electricity supply between the two countries has been cut off..And this customs post is usually closed.
 
Some, like the strongly pro-Chavez mayor of San Antonio, believe a US attack is imminent. “We know what they did in Panama, explains Juan Vicente Canas mayor of San Antonio del Tachira and what they did in Genada, or even in Iraq and Afghanistan. So we have to prepare for every eventuality, including war, and not just psychologically. It's a question of patriotism.”

Every day, the Venezuelan army combs these poor neighbourhoods, inhabited by Colombian immigrants suspected of smuggling fuel or spying for the enemy.

A man is accused of petrol smuggling. His behaviour seems suspicious, so he's arrested. “He's my only grandson, says a anonymous relative of smuggler. He's a builder's mate. And now they've taken him from me.”

For several weeks now, San Antonio has been on full alert. In principle, the National Guard is here to combat the fuel smuggling. Petrol is virtually free in Venezuela. But in reality, they're searching these neighbourhoods for US intelligence agents and Colombian paramilitaries.“ The smugglers carry on all their criminal activities under the noses of the Colombian police and local authorities says Commander Hernandez Da Costa. Everything crosses the River Tachira, with no respect for our border.”

And National Guard commandos make regular raids on the frontier, a narrow strip of water between the two countries, chasing off the smugglers who abandon their petrol canisters. The Venezuelan army spreads out and marks its territory, in the face of an invisible enemy.

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2016-06-23 UK

Like it or not, immigration is Brexit's central topic

Immigration seems to be the most contentious topic in today's so-called "Brexit" referendum in the UK. A record number of people arrived in the UK in 2014, although bringing...

Read more

2016-06-22 UK

Brexit could lead to second Scottish independence referendum

With just one day to go before the UK's referendum on EU membership, we head to Scotland. Party leaders there support the "Remain" camp, and polls suggest most Scots will vote to...

Read more

2016-06-21 Mayotte

French island of Mayotte on verge of collapse

The Indian Ocean island of Mayotte has been a department of France since 2011, but locals feel abandoned by the country's central authorities. After more than two weeks of...

Read more

2016-06-20 France

French city near Spanish border offers safe haven for refugees

To mark World Refugee Day, we take a look at a city in the French Basque country that's taken a pro-active stance in providing support to refugees, mostly Syrians, who have fled...

Read more

2016-06-17 Belgium

Is Belgium becoming a failed state?

Belgium's image has taken a hit worldwide in recent months. From jihadist cells in the district of Molenbeek to the failure to prevent the Paris and Brussels terror attacks,...

Read more