Border conflict: El Nula, who controls the area?
The FARC and ELN guerrillas and also the armed group FBL, have illegally expanded on Venezuelan ground, controlling the area and provoking fear and anguish among its inhabitants.
More than 40 died last year because of selected murders and continuous fighting. While negotiations with the Uribe government are postponed, hostilities grow with deaths and desertion increasing. Therefore forced child recruitment is a normal practice for the illegal armed groups of the area.
This has forced many families from El Nula and neighbouring communities to take their children out of school fearing both their kidnapping by the guerrilla or the danger of being caught in cross fire. Therefore the enrolment levels in the area have greatly decreased.
Absence of local authorities
This has not been the only immediate consequence of the instability in the area; population exodus is increasing. The illegal armed groups have forced by threats, more than 100 people to abandon their homes with no alternative.
In the midst of this situation, the General Episcopal Vicar of Alto Apure, Acacio Belandría S.J., and its Pastoral team made up, among others, by the human rights organization Justice and Peace, the Venezuelan Jesuit Refugee service and the Children Rights organization "Monseñor Romero", try to assist the population whilst demanding the Colombian and Venezuelan authorities to solve the conflict.
"Regarding humanitarian aid for the displaced families, we are organizing an evaluation with the help of the UN Organization for Refugees and Caritas Venezuela to help in this emergency with the JRS, since helping the internally displaced is our mission, but we demand the government to protect the displaced families, since it is their responsibility" says Jesus Rodriguez Villarroel S.J., coordinator for the JRS office in El Nula.
Officials from the Armed Forces visited the El Nula Pastoral Team and were committed to take measures. "Dialogue with Colonel Carreño, second in command, went well and they were in good disposition to take steps in solving the problem of illegal occupation in the area, protect the displaced families and respect the local population's human rights" according to Belnadría.
Currently, Entreculturas and JRS Venezuela have approved a project related to "legal and socio cultural integration to Colombian refugees who are refugees and local population in the border area of Venezuelan Alto Alpure". The purpose is to offer assistance to "the illegal displaced" who have arrived in Venezuela and the JRS has divided its projects activities in two main areas:
In the first place it will work for access to human rights for all local population and those requesting refuge who are accompanied by the JRS, by monitoring, political advocacy, legal aid and establishing protection networks with private and public organizations, both national and international.
Secondly, it will help with the psychosocial and cultural recovery and integration of those families requesting refuge through group therapies and capacitating activities for children and youth.