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EL ESPECTADOR

The Gangs That Rule Along Colombia-Venezuela Border

The border of Colombia and Venezuela has become a lawless land where people are kidnaped and killed with impunity.

Clashes at the Colombia-Venezuela border
Clashes at the Colombia-Venezuela border
Carolina Avila

BOGOTÁ — "Forced disappearances," which too often are kidnapping-murders, have risen in the last three years on the border of Colombia and Venezuela. In 2018, the Colombian Coroner's office reported the forced disappearance of 233 people in Norte de Santander, the border department whose capital is Cúcuta. In June 2019 alone, 97 people reportedly disappeared, and relatives are now calling on the governments of Colombia and Venezuela to open diplomatic channels to tackle this plague.

It's "easier to make someone disappear in this region than to kill them," says Wilfredo Cañizares, head of the Fundación Progresar, a civil rights NGO based in Cúcuta. "When there is a homicide, you know about it because it appears on the front pages of newspapers, but when they make someone disappear, nothing is said about the crime."

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Economy

How Much Longer Can The Russian Economy Survive Sanctions?

The head of the Kremlin boasted at the recent forum in St. Petersburg International Economic Forum about Russia’s economic resilience against Western sanctions. But behind the scenes, Russian business leaders tell a different story.

At a Veshki distribution center for the food retailer VkusVill, a chain of online Russian grocery stores.

Benjamin Quénelle

-Analysis-

MOSCOW — "The most effective sanction to weaken the Kremlin? Not to target us and punish us, but to give us visas instead ... to abandon the sinking the ship!" This businessman's iconoclastic perspective embodies the anxiety one could detect percolating just below the surface at the "Russian Davos" Forum in St. Petersburg last week.

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Officially called the "International" Economic Forum, the annual event organized by Vladimir Putin is meant to attract foreign investors — but this year, the elite of the national business community were cut off from the rest of the world. "Just among Russians... And forced to line up behind the regime and its economic strategies that lead us to a dead end," says the same source, a Russian manager in one of the main state-owned companies.

Like so many others, this man in his 40s, a typical representative of the new upper middle class, with a foreign passport in hand, educated in the West, liberal and multilingual, discovered his name on the lists of Western sanctions. Directly or indirectly, a large part of the Russian business world has been caught up in the European and U.S. sanctions against Moscow.

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