On March 31, a group of over 60 Colombian and Venezuelan NGOs—and over 300 individual advocates from both countries—signed a public letter to UN Secretary General António Guterres in which they urge him to designate a special envoy to the Colombia-Venezuela border crisis. In recent days, clashes between Venezuelan security forces and armed groups in the border state of Apure have led many to flee into Colombia. The Colombian government claims violence has led some 4,700 people to cross the Arauca river and seek shelter in the Colombian town of Arauquita.
Below is an unofficial translation of this letter in English. The original Spanish version is available at the website of Control Ciudadano, a military oversight organization in Venezuela.
We ask the United Nations to Designate a Special Envoy for the Colombian-Venezuelan Border Crisis
Colombia and Venezuela cannot use the events of Apure and Arauca that occurred this week as an excuse for escalating tensions. At this time, rationality and good sense between the leadership of both countries must be exercised, in order to build a solid institutional mechanism for the protection of border residents. Such a mechanism should occur with the support of the United Nations, in a way that can lead to addressing very serious problems security problems related to the way that armed illegal groups are taking advantage of a lack of institutionality affecting both sides of the border.
After over five years of intermittent closures of formal border crossings, and in the absence of minimal coordination between national institutions in Colombia and Venezuela to address shared border problems, it is urgent to activate a mechanism that can respond to humanitarian and security problems involving both countries.
Those of us who subscribe to this statement, including citizens linked to universities, business associations, humanitarian organizations, and civil society in Venezuela and Colombia, consider it urgent that the Secretary General of the United Nations designate a special envoy for the border crisis, at the same time that we request that the governments of both countries allow this envoy to act on the ground. This is necessary for the following issues to be advanced:
- To coordinate necessary security efforts between Venezuela and Colombia, given that for almost two years they have lacked diplomatic or consular relations and the entire institutional framework to manage the relationship is paralyzed. Meanwhile border dynamics are seriously affecting the lives of more than five million people living in these border areas, with a massive and escalating impact on regional security.
- To establish an international observation and monitoring mechanism for the protection of human rights on the border between Venezuela and Colombia.
- To contribute to the urgent social and economic needs of citizens living along the shared border, who suffer the consequences of the political situation and the action of illegal groups.
- To comprehensively facilitate urgent humanitarian assistance, in the face of the displacement and the forced exodus from those fleeing Venezuela due to violence and the complex humanitarian crisis, as well as those who are returning to Colombia.
- To guarantee the exchange of epidemiological information, as well as to facilitate dialogue between the respective authorities of both countries in coordinating an adequate response to the pandemic.
- To assist in the demobilization illegal armed groups and of illegal economic structures that operate on the border.
- To help eliminate antipersonnel mines and remnants of used or unexploded ordnance planted by illegal armed groups, which have become a serious border security problem.
- To promote and facilitate dialogues between the authorities of both countries for the immediate reopening of all formal border crossings, in order to allow the regularization and legalization of the flow of people, merchandise, goods, and services between Colombia and Venezuela.
We reiterate our request to the Secretary General of the United Nations, to urgently designate a special envoy for the common border area between Colombia and Venezuela, as well as to the authorities of both countries involved in this binational civil society petition, so that they may permit the functioning of an official designated for the border crisis. Without cooperation between Venezuela and Colombia, the situation on the border will worsen in the short term, with dramatic consequences for border area communities, and runs the risk of escalating confrontation in such a way for both states to consider settling their differences outside the framework of international law.
Colombia and Venezuela, March 31, 2021
Signing Civil Society Organizations of Colombia and Venezuela:
- Control Ciudadano para la Seguridad, la Defensa y la Fuerza Armada Nacional (Venezuela)
- Puentes Ciudadanos Colombia – Venezuela
- Centro de Estudios de Fronteras e Integración, Universidad de los Andes (Venezuela)
- Medicos Unidos de Colombia (Colombia)
- Fundación Trabajando Juntos (Colombia)
- Acceso a la Justicia (Venezuela)
- Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea) (Venezuela)
- PROMEDEHUM (Venezuela)
- Defensa en Acción (Venezuela)
- Civilis Derechos Humanos (Venezuela)
- Acción Solidaria (Venezuela)
- Gobierna Tec (Venezuela)
- Defiende Venezuela (Venezuela)
- C. Radar de los Barrios (Venezuela)
- Oficina de Derechos Humanos del Vicariato Apostólico de Puerto Ayacucho (Venezuela)
- Unión Vecinal para la Participación Ciudadana (Venezuela)
- Comunidad en Movimiento AC (Venezuela)
- Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados – Colombia
- Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones (Venezuela)
- Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Metropolitana (Venezuela)
- Fundacion Aguaclara (Venezuela)
- Uniandes A.C. (Venezuela)
- Observatorio de derechos humanos de la Universidad de los Andes. (Venezuela)
- Centro para la Paz y los Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Central de Venezuela (Venezuela)
- Monitor Social A.C. (Venezuela)
- Labo Ciudadano (Venezuela)
- FUNCAMAMA (Venezuela)
- Cátedra de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Centroccidental Lisandro Alvarado (Venezuela)
- EXCUBITUS Derechos Humanos en Educación (Venezuela)
- Altercoop (Colombia)
- Una Ventana a la Libertad (Venezuela)
- DDHH UNIANDES ZULIA (Venezuela)
- Comisión Nacional de DDHH de la Federación de Colegios de Abogados de Venezuela del estado Táchira (Venezuela)
- Capitulo España. Bloque Constitucional De Venezuela (España)
- Movimiento Ciudadano Dale Letra (Venezuela)
- Fronteras y Desarrollo Territorial (Colombia)
- Monitor Social AC (Venezuela)
- Caleidoscopio Humano (Venezuela)
- Estudio 40 Asocultural. (España)
- Alianza Global de Jóvenes Políticos Venezuela (Venezuela)
- Consolidado Conciencia Colectiva-3c (Colombia)
- Centro Gumilla (Venezuela)
- Centro de Justicia y Paz – Cepaz (Venezuela)
- PROADOPCION (Venezuela)
- Unión Afirmativa (Venezuela)
- Enlaces Centro de Investigación en Fronteras (Colombia)
- Radio Fe y Alegría (Venezuela)
- Fundacion Pro Bono Venezuela, ProVene (Venezuela)
- Redhnna, Red por los derechos humanos de niñas, niños y adolescentes (Venezuela)
- StopVIH (Venezuela)
- Fundación para el Desarrollo Integral FUNDESI (Venezuela)
- ACCSI Accion Ciudadana Contra el SIDA (Venezuela)
- Fundación CIIDER (Venezuela)
- Fundación de derechos Humanos de Anzoátegui (Venezuela)
- Prepara Familia (Venezuela)
- EDEPA A.C (Venezuela)
- C. Justicia y Paz OP (Venezuela)
- Sociedad Hominis Iura (SOHI) (Venezuela)
- Convite AC (Venezuela)
- Comité de DDHH de la Carucieña (Venezuela)
- Centro de Animación Juvenil (Venezuela)
- Sinergia. Red Venezolana de Organizaciones de Sociedad Civil (Venezuela)
To see the full list of over 300 individual signers, visit Control Ciudadano’s website.