Venezuela Gives Colombian Rebels Free Rein by Juan Forero – Wall Street Journal
The guerrillas of the National Liberation Army, or ELN, have been battling Colombian governments for half a century, but a new advantage is helping them thrive as never before: sanctuary and open support in Venezuela.
The government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, weakened by U.S. sanctions and diplomatically isolated, is deepening its ties with the ELN, which began as a Cuban-inspired rebel group in the 1960s. Caracas has given the group free rein, U.S. and Colombian authorities say, to become a criminal organization that runs wildcat mines and traffics drugs in Venezuela in exchange for providing muscle for Mr. Maduro’s regime.
The group often carries out those activities alongside elements of Venezuela’s armed forces and with full knowledge of high officials in Mr. Maduro’s government, according to those authorities and former Venezuelan officers familiar with the regime’s policies…