Fishermen Massacre in Venezuela 1988

[ 1988 ]

The expansion of illicit drug production and transportation appeared to have the potential to disrupt Venezuelan internal security significantly in the 1990s. As the decade began, most illegal drug activity in Venezuela resulted from a spillover effect from Colombia, the world's leading distributor of cocaine. Venezuela's long Caribbean coastline and large expanses of sparsely populated territory made it attractive as a transshipment point for cocaine products in transit from Colombia to the United States. The gravity of the security situation along the western border was brought home to the Venezuelan public during the presidential election campaign of late 1988, when the media publicized an incident that took place on October 29 near the town of El Amparo along a tributary of the Rio Arauca. What was originally reported as an ambush of Colombian guerrillas by Venezuelan troops eventually turned out to have been the inadvertent murder of sixteen Venezuelan fishermen. The revelation that security forces had mistakenly fired on peaceful residents, then apparently attempted to cover up their error, caused a political furor. It also highlighted the increasing confusion along the frontier that resulted from the activities of drug traffickers and Colombian guerrillas. The overreaction of the Venezuelan forces also suggested that they were not properly prepared to deal with the situation.

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