“Mañana será un gran día! Trabajamos por una Colombia en paz, un sueño que comienza a ser realidad. #SíALaPaz pic.twitter.com/yk7RI4yjrB
— Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) 22 de junio de 2016
“A dream which is becoming a reality,” tweeted Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos.
FARC commander Carlos Lozada tweeted: “On Thursday, June 23, we will announce the last day of the war.”
The cease fire agreement will be signed on Thursday in Havana by President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko. Al Jazeera reports that president Santos will be joined at the signing ceremony by the presidents of Cuba, Venezuela, and Chile, the three countries sponsoring the peace talks in Havana. The Obama administration’s special envoy, Bernard Aronson, and UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, will also attend the ceremony. FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) was founded in 1964 with the help of the Castro government in Cuba. It was inspired by Che Guevara’s notion of a peasant revolution, and land reform has always been at the top of the group’s ideological agenda. It has waged a brutal war against successive Colombian governments, and in the 1980s and 1990s collaborated with the notorious Colombian drug cartels. In the mid-1990s, at the height of its power, FARC has controlled an area the size of Switzerland inside Colombia. The 50-year war has killed more than 220,000 people and forced 6.6 million out of their homes (according to Amnesty International, Colombia has more internally displaced people than any other country in the world). In the last fifteen years, a U.S.-backed military offensive has thinned the rebels’ ranks, while a generous U.S. economic aid program called Plan Colombia – launched by the Clinton administration in 1998 – persuaded many rural Colombians that there were better alternatives to joining the FARC. The aging FARC leadership was weakening, and the successor generation of rebel leaders proved less loyal to Marxist dogma, and more willing to negotiate a deal with the government. The ceasefire, which includes terms for the FARC’s demobilization and laying down of arms, will not begin until the final deal is signed. Al Jazeera notes that in addition to announcing a framework for the ceasefire, both sides said they agreed on how the FARC’s 8,000 fighters will demobilize and hand over their weapons, as well as the security guarantees the government will provide the rebels after the conflict ends. UN observers will monitor the implementation of the various aspects of the agreement. There are still some outstanding issues that must be dealt with. The major obstacle is to find a way to make sure that that the deal is not only ratified, but also given a legal force so it cannot be rescinded if a more conservative government is elected after Santos leaves office in 2018. A former conservative prime minister, Alvaro Uribe, now a leader of a small opposition party, has already announced his opposition to the agreement. He is supported by the families of the FARC’s many victims, who are upset with the amnesty the peace agreement offers rebel leaders. The government insists that there is no blanket amnesty, and that rebels involved in the bloodiest atrocities will face justice. Analysts say that the amnesty provisions, even if they allow for bringing a few FARC second-tier leaders to trial, are highly unpopular among Colombians who have lived in the shadow of FARC violence for two generations now, and it is thus not clear whether the agreement will be approved in a referendum that Santos has promised. It is also not clear whether a plebiscite will be held: the country’s constitutional judges must first approve the plebiscite law passed last year in Congress. Colombians are also aware of the fact that a smaller insurgent group, the ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional), has announced that it was not part of the deal – but sources close to the Colombian government say that the two sides will soon begin negotiations. The FARC announced a unilateral ceasefire last year, leading the government to halt airstrikes on rebel camps and limit ground operations. Both the FARC and the ELN have been designated as terrorist organizations by the United States and the EU.
United States/Pakistan – The Pentagon in a blunt message to Pakistan said the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region remained a sanctuary for various groups in a report published on the 17 Jun 16. The continued existence of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan and its inability to take action against them affect the US-Pakistan bilateral ties, including security assistance, the Pentagon has said. “The US continues to be clear with Pakistan about steps it should take to improve the security environment and deny safe haven to terrorist and extremist groups,” the Pentagon said in its six-monthly report on Afghanistan sent to the Congress yesterday. “These conversations continue to affect not only US dialogue with Pakistan on security and stability in Afghanistan but also during discussion of other issues in the US-Pakistan bilateral relationship such as security assistance,” the Pentagon said in its reports to the Congress. US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has not given certification that Pakistan has taken action against the Haqqani network. As a result, the Pentagon has withheld $300 million in Coalition Support Fund to Pakistan for the current fiscal year ending September 30. The Pentagon in a blunt message to Pakistan said the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region remained a sanctuary for various groups. “These include the Taliban, al Qaeda, AQIS, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e Tayyiba, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, IS-K, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. This sanctuary and these groups remain a security challenge for both countries and pose a threat to regional stability and security,” said the report running into more than 100 pages. “In particular, security in Kunar Province deteriorated over the previous few months due to a series of recent attacks and limited ANDSF presence along the province’s 160 mile-long border with Pakistan,” the Pentagon said. According to the report, although al Qaeda’s core leadership in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region has been degraded, elements continue to seek safe haven on both sides of the border to regenerate and conduct attack planning. The continued development of an al Qaeda affiliate in the region, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), highlights the dynamic nature of the terrorist and militant landscape in the region, posing risks to the mission and to US interests, it said. “Pakistan must play a role in reducing the threat from terrorist and militant groups in the region,” it said. Consistent mid-level military-to-military dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan on specific issues, such as the shared threat from IS-K, and occasional discussions at higher levels of the military and government early in the reporting period were encouraging, the report said. “However, sustained Pakistani efforts to pressure the Haqqani Network and the Taliban and to disrupt active threat streams are necessary to help decrease violence in the region, to reduce the threat posed by these groups, and to achieve lasting progress on counterterrorism issues,” it said. The Pentagon said the security situation in Afghanistan continues to be dominated by a resilient insurgency. “The security situation in Afghanistan continues to be dominated by a resilient insurgency; but the Afghan government remains in control of all major population centres and key lines of communication, and the ANDSF continues to deny the Taliban strategic ground throughout the country,” it said. Although the Taliban maintained a higher-than-usual operational tempo over the winter, overall levels of violence this reporting period were consistent with historical trends of a seasonal decrease in violence over the winter months and an uptick leading into the traditional spring and summer fighting season, it said. The Pentagon said although al Qaeda’s core leadership in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region has been degraded, elements continue to seek safe haven on both sides of the border to regenerate and conduct attack planning. The Pentagon acknowledged that Pakistan has a key role to play in peace talks with the Taliban.
United States – As the White House prepares to host a major summit this week examining the threat of violent extremism, a Southern Poverty Law Centre study of domestic terrorism released last week finds that the vast majority of this violence is coming from “lone wolves” or “leaderless resistance” groups composed of no more than two people. The report — Age of the Wolf: A Study of the Rise of Lone Wolf and Leaderless Resistance Terrorism — examines more than sixty domestic terror incidents. Almost three-quarters of the incidents were carried out, or planned, by a lone wolf, a single person acting without accomplices. Ninety percent of the incidents were the work of no more than two persons. The study, which included violence from both the radical right and home-grown jihadists, also found that a domestic terrorist attack or foiled attack occurred, on average, every thirty-four days. An SPLC release reports that the study covered a period between 1 April 2009 and 1 February 2015, and was based on records maintained by Indiana State University and the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database, along with the SPLC’s own roster of apparent domestic terror incidents. “Our study clearly shows the urgent need for federal agencies to reinvigorate their work studying and analyzing the radical right,” said Mark Potok, SPLC senior fellow and editor of the report. “And it’s important to recognize the trend away from organized groups committing acts of domestic terror. As Timothy McVeigh demonstrated with the Oklahoma City bombing, lone wolves and small cells of domestic terrorists can create massive carnage.” The White House will hold a summit on 18 February to examine the cycle of radicalization that spawns such extremists, but there is a danger, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, that Islamist terror will become the focus. While jihadism is a deadly serious concern, the report shows that authorities should not focus on it to the exclusion of other threats (see “U.S. law enforcement agencies perceive Sovereign citizen movement as top terrorist threat,” HSNW, 6 August 2014; and “FBI increasingly concerned with “sovereign citizen” movement,” HSNW, 1 March 2012). A timeline included with the report details a lengthy list of deadly attacks and plots across the country. They include a 2014 rampage in Nevada by a husband and wife with anti-government views that left two police officers and another man dead, a 2012 attack on a Wisconsin Sikh temple by a long-time neo-Nazi that killed six victims, and a 2010 attack that left an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) manager dead after a man who had attended radical anti-tax group meetings crashed his single-engine plane into an IRS office in Austin, Texas. “The lone wolf’s chief asset is that no one else knows of his violent plans, which makes them exceedingly difficult to disrupt,” Potok said. “It is imperative that authorities, including those gathering at the White House next week, take this threat seriously. Anything less would be an invitation to disaster.”
-– Read more in Ryan Lenz et al., Age of the Wolf: A Study of the Rise of Lone Wolf and Leaderless Resistance Terrorism (SPLC, 2015)
United States/Yemen – The US reportedly plans to extend its military presence in Yemen by keeping a force of special operations advisers in the war-torn country it was reported on the 19 Jun 16. The force, deployed at the request of the Emirati government around the port city of Mukalla back in Apr 16, would remain in Yemen for the foreseeable future, The Washington Post reported. The force, which consists of about a dozen personnel, would help troops from the UAE fight militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the paper cited unnamed US officials as saying. In Mar 16 forces loyal to former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and Emirati troops overran the city of Mukalla after AQAP militants left the seaport in southeast Yemen. Early in May 16 the US military deployed more than 200 US Marines in the port city, which is located in the central province of Hadramout. Yemen's southern coast is now under the control of US troops, who are deployed to the region under the pretext of battling AQAP. The deployment of US troops comes more than a year after the withdrawal of the forces from Yemen. In Mar 15, the US evacuated its remaining forces out of al-Anad airbase "due to the deteriorating security situation" a day after al-Qaeda captured the nearby city of al-Houta. Al-Qaeda has become stronger in Yemen taking advantage of the chaos created by the Saudi military campaign against Houthis more than a year ago. Lately, Riyadh and its allies have announced an offensive against al-Qaeda in a decision seen by analysts as an attempt to ward off international criticism of the Saudi intervention in Yemen. Saudi Arabia launched its military aggression against Yemen on the 26 Mar 15, in a bid to bring Hadi – who is a staunch ally of Riyadh – back to power and defeat the Ansarullah movement.
United States/Russia – Russia agreed to improve coordination with the United States on military operations in Syria, following blunt accusations from the Pentagon that Moscow had targeted U.S.-backed opposition forces. Russia's Defence Ministry made the announcement on the 19 Jun 16 after military officials from both countries spoke by video conference. In Washington, Defence Department spokesman Peter Cook called the video conference "extraordinary" and said U.S. officials expressed strong concerns about the 16 Jun 16 attack on forces at the At-Tanf garrison. He said in a statement on the 18 Jun 16 that the Russian air strikes came even after U.S. attempts to inform Russian forces and created what he said were safety concerns for U.S. and coalition forces. Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the area targeted was 300 kilometres away from locations the United States had designated as controlled by legitimate opposition forces. And he insisted that the Russian Air Force had given advance warning of its ground targets. Also on the 18 Jun 16 Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu made an unannounced visit to Syria to discuss military cooperation "to fight against terrorist organizations on Syrian soil." Russia launched its air campaign in Syria in Sep 15 seeking to bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled back some warplanes in Mar 16 in what he described as a move to help encourage peace talks, but the military has maintained a strong presence at an air base in Latakia Province in northwest Syria. A U.S.- and Russian-brokered cease-fire that began on the 27 Feb 16 helped reduce hostilities for the first time in the five-year conflict, but fierce fighting has continued in many areas, particularly around Aleppo. U.S. officials have said Russia has made little effort to heed U.S. calls to differentiate between terrorist groups like Islamic State and Al-Nusra fighting Assad's forces and more moderate groups backed by the United States and other allies.
Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-united-states- military-cooperation-syria/27807574.html
United States/Libya – A US general said on the 21 Jun 16 that he did not know if the United States had a particular “grand strategy” in war-torn Libya, where pro-government forces are battling ISIS militants. Currently, the United States has only a limited footprint in Libya, even though an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 ISIS fighters operate there. Small teams of US special operations forces are working to gain intelligence and US aircraft have conducted at least two strikes, but the Obama administration has preferred to let forces loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) lead the fight against the ISIS group. Lieutenant General Thomas Waldhauser, who has been nominated to lead the US military’s Africa Command, said he did not necessarily see the level of US engagement changing. “I am not aware of any overall grand strategy at this point,” Waldhauser told lawmakers at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He also said the current, unspecified number of US troops in the North African country was sufficient for now. GNA forces are leading a fierce fight to oust the ISIS group from its stronghold in the coastal city of Sirte, which the extremists have controlled since June last year. “We’re watching the situation in Libya very closely. We understand the potential threat that ISIL poses in Libya and elsewhere,” Cook said.
United States/Da’esh – US President Barack Obama and some administration officials have hailed recent military gains against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but other US officials and outside experts warn that the US-backed air and ground campaign is far from eradicating the radical Islamic group, and could even backfire it was reported on the 22 Jun 16. While ISIS’ defeats in Iraq and Syria have erased its image of invincibility, they threaten to give it greater legitimacy in the eyes of disaffected Sunni Muslims because Shi’ite and Kurdish fighters are a major part of the campaign, some US intelligence officials argue. A second danger, some US officials said, is that as the group loses ground in the Iraqi city of Fallujah and elsewhere, it will turn increasingly to less conventional military tactics and to directing and inspiring more attacks against “soft” targets in Europe, the United States and elsewhere. One US intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, warned that in response to losing Fallujah and other cities the group likely would turn more to guerrilla tactics to disrupt efforts to restore government services. “We can expect ISIL to harass local forces that are holding cities it previously controlled, thereby drawing out battles into protracted campaigns,” he said. The territory held by ISIS has enabled it to build up revenues through oil and taxes, provided it a base to launch attacks on Baghdad, and acted as a recruiting tool for foreign fighters drawn to the self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate. President Barack Obama said on June 14 - two days after a gunman pledging allegiance to ISIS killed 49 people in Orlando - that the militant group was losing “the money that is its lifeblood” as it continues to lose territory. Brett McGurk, the presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, told a White House briefing on June 10 that the group has lost half the territory it had seized in Iraq, about 20 percent of its self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria, and at least 30 percent of its oil production, which accounts for half its revenue. But ISIS fighters in Iraq are already showing signs of adapting a guerrilla war-style strategy, Seth Jones, an analyst with the RAND Corp, said. “It looks like the areas that the ISIS has lost, they are generally abandoning, and that would mean preparing to fight another day,” he said. Despite the progress against ISIS on the battlefield and in the financial realm, CIA Director John Brennan told the Senate Intelligence Committee last week: “Our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach.” “The resources needed for terrorism are very modest, and the group would have to suffer even heavier losses of territory, manpower, and money for its terrorist capacity to decline significantly,” he said.
United States/Da’esh – US military leaders are weighing whether to request additional coalition troops to help local forces fighting the Da’esh terror group in Iraq, but no decisions have been made, a military official said on the 23 Jun 16. “We’re constantly looking to see if we’re right-sized,” said British Army Major General Doug Chalmers, adding that troop levels and additional capabilities formed part of an “ongoing dialogue”. The comments from Chalmers, who is deputy commander for support in the US-led coalition against the Da’esh group in Iraq and Syria, followed a Washington Post story saying generals want to ask President Barack Obama for additional troops and equipment to help consolidate gains against the extremists. Chalmers declined to provide specifics but said additional capabilities could come in the form of logistics, equipment, air support and surveillance. When asked how many additional troops might be requested, he said: “I can guarantee you, it’s not [in] the thousands.” The Post said Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, who heads coalition forces in Iraq, is among a group of military leaders, administration officials and lawmakers who are fed up with “arbitrary” limits on troop numbers. The last reinforcement of US troops in Iraq came in Apr 16 when Pentagon chief Ashton Carter announced the total number of troops would be augmented by 217, bringing the official tally up to 4,087. The actual number, however, is higher because the Pentagon doesn’t count certain categories of troops. Obama has been reluctant to deploy additional forces to Iraq — as well as to neighbouring Syria — to combat Da’esh because he came to power on the promise of ending the war in Iraq and is wary of a gradual re-escalation. Iraqi security forces have made significant gains against Da’esh, and are in the process of clearing any remaining Da’esh militants from Fallujah. Most US troops in Iraq serve in an advisory role with Iraqi partners, though some special operations forces have helped carry out anti-Da’esh raids. The American presence in Iraq is a sensitive one for the Iraqis too, especially among Shiite militias wary of US forces.
Venezuela – Reported in a British newspaper on the 21 Jun 16. The sadistic boss of one of Venezuela’s most feared kidnap gangs has revealed in harrowing detail how he stalks and seizes his victims, murders those who don’t pay the ransom – and has a network of corrupt officers embedded in the police. In a chilling interview in the lawless slums of western Caracas, conducted at gunpoint, the kidnap boss told how he has 'no remorse' about his reign of terror in the crisis-stricken city. 'If they don’t pay up after a week,' he said. 'We dig a two-metre hole and shoot them in the face with a shotgun so nobody will be able to identify the body. They stay on the missing persons list forever. In this city, I am in charge.' Kidnapping rates in the socialist country have soared since falling oil prices caused widespread food shortages and unrest. The over-stretched police force is struggling to deal with the crime wave, which has brought the country to its knees. Caracas, named ‘the most dangerous city on earth’, has the world’s highest homicide rate, with 3,946 murders alone last year in a city of almost 3.3 million people. According to police figures, 85 per cent of deaths in the city are violent. Police openly admit they cannot cope. On a motorbike patrol through one of the country’s most dangerous 'kidnap alleys', Santiago Rosas, director of El Hatillo municipal police, said that police are now 'only able to protect nine per cent of the population'. The 23-year-old kidnap boss made sickening boasts about his ability to run rings around the police, taking advantage of a nation that is now so poor that people scavenge in rubbish dumps for food. Sitting in the shadows, his face covered by a mask, he said: ‘I have no remorse because the people we kidnap have plenty of money. ‘Usually we get a tip-off from somebody with a grudge, telling us that someone they know has money and what their movements are. ‘We know a lot of private bodyguards, and when they feel they are not being paid enough they give us the information we need to kidnap their rich employer, and we give them a cut.' It is possible that the 'boss' was exaggerating his activities. But Santiago Rosas, director of El Hatillo municipal police, said that the gang’s emphasis on intelligence and ability to hold victims for long periods indicates it is ‘one of the biggest crime rings in Caracas’. The vast majority of kidnaps are carried out by smalltime operators, he said. These opportunistic snatches do not last longer than 24 hours, so are known as 'express' kidnaps. The boss’ claims of having ‘300 gang members’ are probably inflated, the officer said – but ‘even if he only has 150, that’s the size of a municipal police force’. The situation is so dire that police are now only able to protect nine per cent of the population, Rosas said. According to police figures, 85 per cent of all deaths in the city are due to violence, and there were 5,000 homicides in the capital last year. Ransom prices have soared since the start of the economic collapse, in a country where the average wage is £14 a month. The gang’s first kidnap, carried out five years ago, netted a ransom of £117. These days, they charge at least £11,700. The gang, which has been described as ‘the kings of the city’, apparently has stooges and informants from all walks of life, including in the military and police. According to Transparency International, Venezuela is the ninth-most corrupt country in the world. ‘There is a lot of competition in the kidnap business. A lot of cops do it too,' said the gang boss. 'There are two types of cops. There are clever ones who know that having us as enemies is not smart, and there are stupid ones who get grenades through their windows. ‘The clever ones give us high-velocity weapons, bullets, body armour. We have people working for us in the municipal police, national police and the army, and they make sure we are well-equipped. ‘Our weaponry is far better than the police. We have four houses in this area which are arsenals for our guns and explosives. As your car was approaching, I had people training sniper rifles on you.’ This was grimly familiar to the El Hatillo police, where 41 officers have been suspended over two years in a crackdown on corruption, found guilty of kidnapping, robbery and homicide. 'The situation is exactly as he said, definitely,' said Rosas. 'They have the best weapons. We hope we don't have too many "clever" cops in our municipality, but it's dangerous to be an honest cop.' Two years ago, an audit of the El Hatillo arsenal found that 20 guns and 1,000 bullets were unaccounted for, and it was assumed that they had been passed to criminals. In a sign of how bad things have become, last year, when a woman called the police after seeing her front door open, the six officers who attended the scene robbed her home themselves. Police have the most dangerous jobs in Venezuela, making recruitment difficult. Officers are paid just £11 a month, meaning that they are forced to live side-by-side with their enemies in the very slums that are infested with criminal gangs. In the criminal underworld, killing a policeman is said to be a pre-requisite for promotion to a more senior position in underworld gangs. In 2015, 173 police officers were murdered in the capital. This year, 64 have been killed so far, marking a relative increase of 14 per cent since the economic crisis took hold. Last year, one of the El Hatillo officers was ambushed at home. He was shot 14 times in the face and 12 times in the body, in front of his wife and two young children. Crime is intertwined with ordinary life in Caracas, where danger lurks just beneath the surface. As the newspaper interviewed the gang boss while being held at gunpoint, people were going about their business in the street outside and children were playing by brightly-painted slum houses. On average, the kidnappers’ boss claimed, his gang murders ‘several people’ a month, and carries out ‘kidnap operations’ weekly. They make no distinction between men, women or elderly people when it comes to kidnapping, he claimed, and will even snatch children if there is enough money to be made. They were researching a snatch which could net them £23,500, he added. ‘On the 16 Jun 16 we kidnapped a headmistress because one of her students told us that she had a lot of money,' he said. 'We demanded £12,000 in ransom and her family paid within seven hours. It went very smoothly, and was good business.’ The gang also claims to run a thriving drug trafficking business. ‘Sometimes we kill the victims if they make us angry,’ he boasted, in yet another sickening rant. ‘Once I killed someone because he begged too much for his life. He didn’t have any courage, so I shot him.’ He even claimed to have killed up to 20 people with his own hands, but boasted that he had ordered the execution of 'hundreds' more. The so-called boss went on to describe in disturbing detail how the kidnaps are apparently carried out. The gang's team of ‘spotters’ loiter anonymously in the street and spend weeks gathering intelligence about a wealthy person who follows a fixed daily routine, he said. Then a four-man team tracks the victim’s car, driving in front of them rather than behind. ‘We already know exactly what their route is going to be,’ he explained. When the streets are relatively empty, they stop in front of the victim’s car and bundle them into their own vehicle. The empty car is then usually abandoned. ‘When we get them here to our place in the slums, we treat them just as we treated you today,’ he said. ‘We force them to keep their head down, frisk them and make them sit on metal chairs. 'Our faces are always covered. If they resist, we shoot them in the legs. ‘We don’t bother with torturing them or cutting off an ear and sending it to the family, like you see in the movies. If they don’t pay or don’t cooperate, we just kill them.’ Many of the gang members are in their teens, and some are as young as 10. As they gradually become more influential, the criminals are emboldened by what frustrated police refer to as ‘impunity’. Between 92 and 97 per cent of suspects arrested with 'smoking gun' evidence are released by a justice system riddled with corruption and cronyism, Rosas said. 'This is Venezuelan justice,' he said. 'It is one of the biggest and deepest problems we have.' These frustrations are felt personally by the policemen on the front line. In Apr 16, his men arrested a motorcycle gangster who had shot someone to death in the district. Less than two months later, after paying a bribe, the suspect was released from prison. To make matters worse, Venezuela’s prisons are run by the inmates themselves, with the authorities simply containing them inside. They are rife with guns and drugs, and act as incubators for violence. With one gun for every two people, Venezuela is the most weaponised country on Earth. And the vast majority of firearms have been handed to civilians – either officially or unofficially – by the authorities. Hugo Chavez, the iconic Venezuelan ruler who died in 2013, set up hundreds of armed civilian militia ordered to take to the streets and defend his Socialist ideology in times of crisis. This made gun ownership widespread in the country, and contributed towards the soaring murder rate. Rosas' police department lies in a part of Caracas run by opposition politicians, which enables him to speak freely. However, he said that the government is increasingly trying to bring independent police forces under its control. He believes that the government is largely to blame for Venezuela's security crisis. In 2014, Rosas pointed out, the authorities sought to ease friction between the police and criminals by declaring ‘peace zones’ throughout the country – where police were not allowed to enter. After that, local gangs allied themselves into 'mega-gangs' and seized complete control of areas ranging from a few blocks to the size of a small city. In Caracas alone, there are four 'peace zones' spanning six square miles. Officers are allowed in only to collect bodies. Crime is so rife in Venezuela that many children get sucked in at an early age. The boss himself said he started selling drugs in the street and shoplifting at the age of 13, after being ‘mistreated’ at home. He graduated to car theft, armed robbery and murder before using the money he had made to recruit other thugs and start his own gang. His first kill, he claimed, was a man who tried to stop him robbing a shop. ‘I shot him in the stomach with a .38 revolver and later I found out that he died,’ he said. ‘I felt angry with him and scared of the police, but I knew he deserved it. He was bigger than me, he shouldn’t have tried to stop me.’ These days, he said, he makes little effort to ‘clean up’ a crime scene because he knows the police won’t investigate him anyway. ‘It makes me feel great. I am powerful, I am better than the other people who work for £14 a month,’ he said. ‘I have earned respect by being smart and being brutal. If anyone crosses me I kill them in front of everyone so they know that in this city, I am in charge.'