News Alerts

25 Nov 2018 | 11:39 PM UTC

Venezuela: ELN operating in 12 states as of late November

Venezuela News Alert

Colombian rebel group National Liberation Army (ELN) expands its presence to 12 states as of late November; rebel attacks increasingly likely in border states

TIMEFRAME expected from 11/20/2018, 12:30 AM until 12/1/2018, 12:29 AM (America/Caracas). COUNTRY/REGION Northern Venezuela


The Colombian rebel group National Liberation Army (ELN) has reportedly expanded its presence in Venezuela and is now active in 12 of the country's 23 states. The group has carried out several deadly attacks on rural communities, including an October 14 incident in Sifontes (Bolívar), killing seven residents, and on November 4 against a Bolivarian National Guard outpost in Amazonas, killing three officers. According to monitoring groups, the ELN is now active in Amazonas, Anzoátegui, Apure, Barinas, Bolívar, Falcón, Guárico, Lara, Portuguesa, Táchira, Trujillo, and Zulia.

In addition to its campaign of violence, the ELN has reportedly expanded its capabilities in illegal mining, smuggling, local media, food distribution, and drug trafficking, and is the de facto governing body in many rural communities. The group has also attacked government mineral projects deemed vital to the Venezuelan economy, highlighted by the October 14 attack near the new Orinoco Mining project. Additional attacks by ELN fighters in Venezuela are possible, particularly against security forces and economic interests of the central government.


Counter-insurgency efforts by the Colombian government in recent years has pushed ELN rebels into Venezuela, where some rights groups allege President Nicolás Maduro has allowed the group to operate. The group has increasingly taken control of vital economic interests, including mining projects in indigenous communities, and even after Venezuelan security forces arrested ELN leader Luis Felipe Ortega Bernal, also referred to as "Garganta," on November 4, the Maduro administration is likely incapable of containing the group. Its expansion in Venezuela will also impact negotiation attempts in Colombia, where President Iván Duque has refused to meet with ELN leaders until it ceases its illegal activities.


Various foreign governments advise against travel to areas along the Colombian-Venezuelan borders due to the presence of various armed groups and associated violence.


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