Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

ENCORE!

Jean-Michel Jarre: Breathing new life into 'Oxygène'

Read more

FOCUS

Park's presidency hanging by thin thread

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

Ukraine’s ex-prime minister: ‘Ukraine protects EU borders’

Read more

ACCESS ASIA

Karoshi crisis: The Japanese employees who work themselves to death

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

US President-elect Donald Trump sparks controversy with his 'improvised diplomacy'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Can Valls 'reconcile' the divided left?

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Government forces close to recapturing Libyan IS group stronghold of Sirte

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

South Korea's business conglomerates face corruption accusations

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Can Manuel Valls unite the left ahead of 2017?

Read more

FOCUS

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

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

2016-12-06 South Korea

Park's presidency hanging by thin thread

Park Geun-hye's days as South Korea’s president appear to be numbered right now. Every weekend, for more than a month, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets...

Read more

2016-12-05 Italy

Italy's rural south welcomes refugees with open arms

The year 2016 is shaping up to be a record year for the arrival of asylum seekers in Italy. Since January, around 170,000 have arrived on the shores of the peninsula including...

Read more

2016-12-02 Europe

Video: Far right at the gates of power in Austria

Austria's far-right candidate Norbert Hofer gets another shot at becoming president in a second-round vote on Sunday after a May election was annulled by the constitutional court...

Read more

2016-12-01 Middle East

Iraq: Embedded with Shiite militias fighting to retake town of Tal Afar

Our reporters in Iraq have been following Shiite militias who are fighting alongside the regular army. Their current mission is to retake the town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul,...

Read more

2016-11-30 France

Suspects under house arrest in France protest their innocence

France’s state of emergency imposed in the wake of last November’s terror attacks is still in place today. The measure gives police and state officials special powers to take...

Read more