Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

War in Syria: The battle for Aleppo

Read more

FACE-OFF

Hollande plays last cards before 2017 presidential race

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

The stolen youth of refugee minors

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Where were the MPs for the vote?

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Italy's banks under pressure over bad debts

Read more

THE DEBATE

Battle for Aleppo: A turning point in Syria's civil war? (part 2)

Read more

THE DEBATE

Battle for Aleppo: A turning point in Syria's civil war? (part 1)

Read more

FOCUS

The Arab Spring's unfulfilled promises

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Nkandla scandal: Top court still to rule on Zuma's home upgrade

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

2016-02-08 Tunisia

The Arab Spring's unfulfilled promises

In January, Tunisia saw a week of protests as people voiced their anger over unemployment and corruption. The country is often held up as an example of one which survived the...

Read more

2016-02-09 tourism

Morocco sees drop in tourist numbers

Unlike its neighbours, particularly Tunisia, Morocco has been spared terrorist attacks in recent years. The last one was five years ago. But tourist numbers are still down.

Read more

2016-02-05 children

Transgender children: Embracing the transition process

A generation ago, only adults would go through the daunting, but often liberating, process of changing their gender. Today, a growing number of children and adolescents undergo...

Read more

2016-02-04 Syria

Syrian refugees forced into statelessness

In Lebanon one in five people is now a Syrian refugee. The country closed its borders over a year ago, and the government has become more restrictive in issuing residence...

Read more

2016-02-03 jihad

Belgium's Molenbeek seeks to restore tarnished image

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, the working-class district of Molenbeek, in the suburbs of the Belgian capital Brussels, was blamed. As the days passed, the...

Read more