Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FOCUS

Migrant crisis: How Italy is training Libyan coast guards

Read more

ENCORE!

Slapstick, stunts and a sweet 'pas de deux' in the streets of Paris

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

'Turkey is the biggest jail for journalists in the world'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'The Evolution of the Presidential Portrait'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

A sweeter pill to swallow: Fillon unveils revamped healthcare policies

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

1.5 million fewer tourists visited Paris in 2016

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

NATO chief Stoltenberg: US is 'strongly committed to Alliance'

Read more

ACROSS AFRICA

South Sudan's refugee crisis has reached catastrophic proportions, UN warns

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Famine in South Sudan: More than 100,000 people face starvation

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

2017-02-21 Europe

Migrant crisis: How Italy is training Libyan coast guards

In a bid to crack down on human trafficking in the Mediterranean, the European Union and Libya are working together. As part of the EU's operation Sophia, officers in the Libyan...

Read more

2017-02-20 Americas

North Dakota: Sioux tribe stands firm against pipeline project

In the US state of North Dakota, members of the Sioux tribe of Standing Rock have been defying oil companies and authorities for several months. They want them to scrap a plan...

Read more

2017-02-17 Americas

A closer look at former Colombian president Uribe's murky past

Colombia recently reached a historic peace deal with FARC rebels, but that's not to everyone's liking. In parliament, the peace process has a strong adversary in Alvaro Uribe,...

Read more

2017-02-16 Americas

Islamophobia on the rise in Quebec

On January 29, six Muslims were shot dead at a mosque in Quebec City, Canada by a far-right extremist. But the shocking attack did not come as a complete surprise to the local...

Read more

2017-02-15 Poland

Polish military hit by exodus of top generals

US President Donald Trump complains that NATO members don't pay their way, but Poland is one of only five nations that does meet its commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on...

Read more