Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Monday reported eight soldiers had died fighting a group of “terrorists” on the Colombian border. But after three weeks of clashes and 17 deaths, “the region is returning to normal.”
”So far there have been nine casualties from these terrorist groups and, unfortunately, we have suffered the loss of eight colleagues from the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB),” Padrino said regarding clashes that began last 21 March in the Colombian-bordering state of Apure.
The Venezuelan forces had sustained four casualties up to last Sunday, it was reported. Information on these matters has been very scarce and it remains to be clear who the group Padrino referred to as terrorists really are, although Venezuelan authorities have released pictures of seized uniforms bearing the logos and acronyms of the former FARC guerrillas and their allegiance has reportedly been corroborated but other unofficial sources.
Padrino also explained 34 Bolivarian army combatants had been injured but they “have received medical assistance in the military health network, of which 21 have been discharged with all their treatments and that 16 antipersonnel mines had been deactivated.
Government ruler Nicolás Maduro ordered the establishment of a special temporary integral defence operational zone under General Alejandro Javier Benitez Marcano with a coordination staff, as well as a “comprehensive brigade,” called Negro Primero, under General Wilfredo Alexander Medrano, to whom the necessary military units and equipment will be assigned, Padrino announced.
Maduro has ordered extraordinary measures, which include the creation of a security zone in the municipalities of Páez, Muñoz and Rómulo Gallegos, all in Apure and where most of the fighting has taken place, the minister continued.
As part of these measures, the FANB's Strategic Operational Command will design and execute special public security plans to deal with destabilizing actions that threaten peace, personal security and the safeguarding of public and private facilities and assets. to guarantee internal order, citizen peace and human rights.
Padrino also commented that this command, through the Apure integral defence operational zone and jointly with the civil, regional and municipal authorities, to safeguard human rights, will establish restrictions and schedules for transit as well as impose time restrictions for the operation of public and private places, in addition to implementing security control measures to guarantee public services and citizen peace.
Finally, Padrino clarified that the military deployed in the area will be able to inspect the movable and immovable property following the laws and regulations in force, as well as evict illegal occupations of public property that affect the security and defence of the nation.
He also warned that the military units will intervene to reestablish free transit in urban or rural areas in case it is interrupted, in addition to launching other actions that guarantee free development and peace in the region.”