Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Spain 'goes nuclear' on Catalonia

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton says Trump 'channels' racism

Read more

THE DEBATE

Moment of truth: Spain sets in motion direct rule over Catalonia

Read more

PEOPLE & PROFIT

Must it come down? Market analysts bracing for correction

Read more

FOCUS

Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto to vote on autonomy

Read more

THE POLITICAL BRIEF

France considers tough new laws to crack down on sexual harassment

Read more

ENCORE!

Inside the new Yves Saint Laurent museum in Morocco

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

California: When your home is reduced to ashes

Read more

FRENCH CONNECTIONS

#balancetonporc: Sexual harassment and gender inequality in France

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

2017-10-19 Europe

Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto to vote on autonomy

As the Catalan crisis continues to rattle Spain, we turn our attention to Italy. On Sunday, 16 million Italians in the northern Lombardy and Veneto regions will vote in a...

Read more

2017-10-18 Americas

See you in court: Washington state sues Monsanto over chemical pollution

US agrichemical giant Monsanto is under scrutiny as EU leaders mull whether to ban glyphosate, the main ingredient of its herbicide Roundup. The firm is also under fire in the...

Read more

2017-10-17 France

A shield and a target: France's anti-terrorism operation 'Sentinelle'

"Sentinelle" is the name of an ongoing military operation on French soil: French soldiers patrol the streets, acting as a first line of defence and a shield for potential...

Read more

2017-10-16 Turkey

Turkey's brain drain: Turning their backs on limited freedom, declining economy

According to a report by Turkey's main opposition party, thousands of Turks chose to leave their country following last year's coup attempt on July 16. Most say they are worried...

Read more

2017-10-13 Europe

Sebastian Kurz on track to become Austria's next chancellor

He's been dubbed the "Austrian Emmanuel Macron". Sebastian Kurz is only 31 years old, but he's on track to become Austria's new leader when the country heads to the polls this...

Read more