Reports indicate that President Iván Duque announced on October 28 plans to dispatch 5,000 army units to the Catatumbo region located in the Norte de Santander Department, near the border with Venezuela. The troops will be tasked with curbing illicit trade and drug trafficking along Colombia’s borders. In April former President Manuel Santos deployed 2,000 security agents to the area to reinforce the existing 6,000 strong contingent stationed in Catatumbo.
Due to its difficult topography and jungle areas on both sides of the border, the Catatumbo region in northeastern parts of the country is highly susceptible to illegal crossings between Colombia and Venezuela. The region is considered one of the most important in terms of coca production and remains a stronghold of the National Liberation Army (ELN) and various transnational criminal gangs. While the deployment of additional army contingents will mark a steep increase in security presence in Catatumbo, militant groups are unlikely to be deterred from conducting attacks against government infrastructure. Bearing in mind surmounting tensions between Caracas and Bogota, Duque’s decision was potentially influenced by a similar move by Venezuela, which in late September mobilized troops to the Táchira State, along with Colombia’s border in Catatumbo.