A ruling from the Justice and Peace Tribunal in Bogotá, Colombia has revealed that Colombian paramilitary forces planned in 2003 to create a paramilitary force to operate in Venezuela, aiming to disrupt the alleged alliance between Venezuelan officials and elements of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that were operating in Venezuela.
The court's ruling details a plan formed by the Central Bolívar Bloc, a subgroup of the right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) that fought left-wing militias from 1997 to 2006, to transfer men and arms across the border into Venezuela. The plan was derailed when one of its organizers, identified by the alias "Gustavo Alarcón," was gunned down during a meeting with arms traffickers in Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela on April 18th, 2003.
After Alarcón's death, according to court investigations and confessions from 'ex-paras,' the operation was cancelled and the troops organized for it, as well as the military equipment they had gathered, were transferred to auto-defense forces in other parts of Colombia.
Relations along Venezuela's and Colombia's 2000 km border have been fraught in recent years. The Colombian government has accused the Chávez and Maduro administrations of allowing FARC and other paramilitary groups to operate in Venezuelan territory just across the border, and of cooperating with paramilitaries in activities such as drug trafficking and smuggling.
Relations deteriorated to a low point in early 2008, when Colombian troops crossed over the Ecuadorian border in a raid that killed FARC leader Raul Reyes. Venezuela and Ecuador expelled Colombian diplomats and Venezuela ordered troops to its border, escalating tensions throughout the region. Colombia's current president, Juan Manuel Santos, was Defense Minister at the time.