Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Macron makes Time 100 as France revolts

Read more

THE DEBATE

Turkey's rush to the polls: Erdogan calls snap election to cement his power

Read more

THE POLITICAL BRIEF

France's Macron likens divisions within EU to 'civil war'

Read more

ENCORE!

Sting and Shaggy on making musical magic together

Read more

FOCUS

The citizens finding solutions to Lebanon's chronic waste crisis

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Head of UN entity probing war crimes in Syria speaks to FRANCE 24

Read more

PEOPLE & PROFIT

The future of work: How the gig economy is changing the jobs market

Read more

PERSPECTIVE

'France has underinvested in early childhood education for many years'

Read more

IN THE PRESS

'Badass': Accolades pour in for Southwest pilot who landed plane after engine failure

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

2018-04-19 Middle East

The citizens finding solutions to Lebanon's chronic waste crisis

For years, Lebanese citizens have been dealing with the consequences of bad waste management. This is especially visible in the capital Beirut and the heavily urbanised coastal...

Read more

2018-04-18 Americas

Video: A look back at the Castro years in Cuba

A new chapter is beginning in Cuba, with the country's National Assembly meeting to elect a new president. Raul Castro is stepping down from his position as head of state after...

Read more

2018-04-17 Europe

Andalusia, the gateway to Europe for cannabis

More than 70% of cannabis in circulation in Europe transits through Andalusia, in southern Spain. The drug is transported from Morocco on speedboats across the Strait of...

Read more

2018-04-16 Africa

Video: Embedded with French troops in eastern Mali

Just this weekend, seven French troops in Mali were injured and one UN peacekeeper killed in a four-hour rocket, mortar and car bomb attack on their camp at Timbuktu airport....

Read more

2018-04-13 France

Is Paris ripe for a boom in alternative transportation?

As French rail workers continue their rolling strikes against planned reforms, millions of passengers are looking for other ways to get around. In Paris, several private...

Read more