Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

ENCORE!

30 years of Americana through Jean-Pierre Laffont's lens

Read more

FOCUS

A little bit of Africa in Paris

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Frenchman kidnapped in Algeria: 'IS'-linked jihadists claim abduction of 55-year-old tourist

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

EU budget deficits: Time to be more flexible?

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

Sir Graham Watson, President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe

Read more

#TECH 24

Anonymous ‘declare cyber war’ on IS militants

Read more

WEB NEWS

Cambodian garment workers demand minimum wage

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'France in the crosshairs'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Climate change: The heat is on

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

2014-09-23 business

A little bit of Africa in Paris

We take you on a guided tour of Paris - but don't expect just another report on the French capital's iconic landmarks. We're showing you the city's cultural diversity, and today...

Read more

2014-09-22 Paris

Why do international students choose Paris?

After the US and UK, France is one of the most popular destinations for international students with thousands coming to the French capital every year. Our reporters talked to...

Read more

2014-09-19 Russia

Ukraine's 'volunteer' battalions: Under Kiev's control?

Ukraine is offering temporary self-rule to areas of its eastern Donbass region currently controlled by separatists. It’s part of a ceasefire deal, but one that was virtually...

Read more

2014-09-18 children

Cleaning up Thailand's shady surrogacy industry

In the absence of rules, surrogacy has become a thriving - and shady - business in Thailand. But things could be about to change as a series of highly publicised cases have...

Read more

2014-09-17 referendum

Scottish referendum: Should I stay or should I go?

This Wednesday is the final day of campaigning before people living in Scotland vote on whether or not to leave the United Kingdom. Our correspondents in Scotland have been to...

Read more