The incessant search for the disappeared on the border between Colombia and Venezuela

By Geraldine Garcia |

Cúcuta (Colombia) (BLAZETRENDS).- Five years have passed since Nelly Martínez disappeared on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. Her sister Doris has searched for her without success but she does not lose hope that with the reestablishment of relations between the two countries she will be able to find her.

Doris has gone through all the illegal trails that cross the border between the Colombian department of Norte de Santander and the Venezuelan state of Táchira in search of information on her whereabouts. It has all been in vain.

His sister left her house in the Boconó neighborhood, in Cúcuta, the main Colombian city on the border, one day in October 2018, and never returned. She was last seen near the Francisco de Paula Santander international bridge and that is all that is known.

“My sister sold contraband gasoline – a regular business at the border – and since October 8, 2018, we have not heard anything about her, whether she is alive or dead,” Doris told BLAZETRENDS, who experiences permanent anguish, like that of thousands of Colombian families who do not know where their loved ones are.

His story is one of the many that exist on the border and that this Saturday were heard in Cúcuta by the Venezuelan deputy Luis Eduardo Martínez, vice president of the Commission for Dialogue, Peace and Reconciliation of the National Assembly, and by Juan Carlos Palencia, a member of the Border Commission of the Venezuelan legislature.

Venezuelan politicians seek a rapprochement so that the authorities and entities of the two countries cooperate and pay more attention to the families that are looking for their disappeared.

“There are no more excuses, diplomatic and consular relations are already restored; there must be coordination between the Venezuelan and Colombian Prosecutors, between intelligence and criminal investigation agencies to provide answers to these relatives who are looking for their children, nephews and brothers,” Martínez said at a press conference.

Traces of the disappeared at the border

The border was closed for seven years, between 2015 and 2022, by decision of the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro. And after the reestablishment of relations with Colombia, the border crossings were reopened, but even so, many people continue to circulate on the trails, controlled by illegal armed groups, which makes this area highly dangerous.

Andrés David Laguado disappeared on September 19, 2018, at the age of 23. Since that day, his aunt Yolanda Barreto has not stopped searching for him.

Through tears, the woman remembers that Andrés disappeared on the trail known as El Águila, which crosses the border river Táchira, where he went with a friend who was found dead days later.

“We traveled all the trails because they told us that he was dead in a grave, but there are many other versions,” Barreto said of his nephew, who also sold fuel in Cúcuta.

Venezuelan mother looking for her son from Colombia

Her story is similar to that of Rosa Reyes, a Venezuelan mother who has already lost count of the times she has crossed the border looking for her only son, Jhaylander Raúl Arévalo, 23, who traveled by motorcycle from La Fría (Táchira, Venezuela), to Cúcuta in April 2022 to buy some spare parts.

“The last time he was seen, he was recorded on a camera entering the San Gerardo trail, but he was never seen leaving again. My son was healthy and I don’t know where his body was or if he is alive, ”said the lady in tears.

To date there is no official record of the disappeared at the border, but it is said that there are more than a thousand victims from both countries, which is why on June 30 the foreign ministers of Colombia, Álvaro Leyva, and of Venezuela, Yvan Gil, when installing the Neighborhood and Integration Commission in Bogotá, included cooperation in this field among its topics.

In May, after former paramilitary chief Salvatore Mancuso revealed that many disappeared people in the area had been murdered, Colombia and Venezuela began working on an agreement for humanitarian purposes to establish the most adequate and expeditious mechanisms for the search, recovery, and identification of the remains of those people.

The entry The incessant search for the disappeared on the border between Colombia and Venezuela was first published in BLAZETRENDS Noticias.

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