Foreign Policy Blogs

Murder of Colombians May Heighten Tensions Along Border

Another body of a Colombian migrant – now the eleventh – was recently found along the border region of Venezuela. The victim had been playing pick-up soccer when kidnapped two weeks ago.

The Colombian and Venezuelan governments have each traded accusations related to the incident, leading to increased tensions.

Who would massacre these Colombians, and to what end? It may be an extreme sign of anti-immigrant sentiment within Venezuela; Colombians make up its largest foreign-born group and often compete for jobs while being labeled with negative stereotypes. Another more likely possibility is that Colombian guerrillas, such as the ELN and FARC, crossed the border in order to kill suspected paramilitary adversaries.

The region between Venezuela and Colombia is relatively porous, allowing the movement of migrants as well as armed groups. Venezuela’s border-states host more than 200,000 persons who are forcibly displaced due to the ongoing civil conflict in Colombia, in addition to tens of thousands of others who seek better economic opportunities. Meanwhile, Bogotá has presented evidence that the government in Caracas allows Colombian guerillas to use its territory for sanctuary.

Whether or not the intent of the murders was to send a message or settle an old score, the Colombian migrant community must live with a deepened sense of their own vulnerability. They often live on the margins, struggling to find adequate housing or jobs. Many are also without legal documentation, and open to intimidation and abuse from local authorities. At the same time, Venezuela’s murder rate has unfortunately skyrocketed within the past decade, and few perpetrators are ever brought to justice. Under these circumstances one can only hope that no additional killings take place.

More information on the latest victim can be found here.



David D. Sussman

David D. Sussman is currently a PhD Candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), in Boston, Massachusetts. Serving as a fellow at the Feinstein International Center, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study the lives of Colombian refugees and economic migrants in Caracas, Venezuela. David has worked on a variety of migrant issues that include the health of displaced persons, domestic resettlement of refugees, and structured labor-migration programs. He holds a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School, where he studied the integration of Somali and Salvadoran immigrants. David has a B.A. from Dartmouth College and is fluent in Spanish. He has lived in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela, and also traveled throughout Latin America. In his free time David enjoys reading up on international news, playing soccer, cooking arepas, and dancing salsa casino. Areas of Focus: Latin America; Migration; Venezuela.