Social Issues

Renewal of Venezuela-Colombia ties yet to provide answers for kin of missing

By Genesis Carrero Soto

Caracas, Mar 24 (EFE).- Last year, according to Venezuelan human rights organization FundaRedes, 334 people disappeared in the region along the 2,219 km (1,379 mi) border with Colombia.

That figure includes the case of Jarvin Soto, who was found dead by family members 10 days after he went missing from San Antonio del Tachira, just across the border from the Colombian city of Cucuta.

Though the border reopened last August after seven years of frayed ties between Caracas and Bogota, the 400 or so illegal passes identified by FundaRedes remain active.

While Georgi Soto knows what became of his brother, hundreds of families still don’t know the fate of their missing loved ones and FundaRedes investigator Adriangela Alvarez said that the situation has not improved despite the restoration of friendly relations in Colombia.

“The families of the victims have not gotten answers, not only about the missing, but also about the people murdered in the passes. These people continue waiting for authorities to investigate these atrocious crimes that today leave empty spaces in Venezuelan homes,” she told EFE.

FundaRedes says that 36 people have gone missing along the border so far in 2023.

On Oct. 13, 2022, Georgi Soto told EFE, unknown subjects accosted Jarvin as he was riding his motorcycle in San Antonio del Tachira, forcing him into their vehicle and taking the bike.

Learning of his brother’s disappearance, Soto went to the illegal passes, braving threats to seek out the leaders of the armed groups operating in the area and ask for their help in finding Jarvin.

“I found him on Saturday the 22nd and they told me that he was killed in a confrontation with the (Colombian) National Police,” Georgi said. “He was kidnapped by the guerrillas and at the morgue, those who brought the body said that it was a police confrontation.”

Jarvin was shot twice in the chest “at point-blank range,” his brother said.

The Soto family’s search for Jarvin led to threats and reprisals and they eventually fled their home in Tachira state.

Venezuelan lawmaker Juan Carlos Palencia, who sits on a legislative subcommittee dealing with border issues, explained to EFE that over the last seven years, armed groups installed themselves on both banks of the Tachira River, which separates Tachira state from the Colombian province of Norte de Santander.

Palencia, who recently appealed to Colombia’s Congress for the establishment of a bi-national commission to investigate disappearances, said that families are afraid to report their loved ones missing.

He said that with help from FundaRedes and NGOs on the other side of the border, the subcommittee has documented 87 disappearances of Venezuelans and 123 of Colombians during the 2015-2022 period.

The subcommittee hopes to see the National Assembly formally ask the Attorney General’s Office for an investigation, Palencia said.

EFE gcs/dr

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