Venezuelan authorities recovered yesterday the body of Jose Luis Arenas, 21, who was abducted and murdered over the weekend in the Venezuelan state of Táchira, near the town of El Pinal. Mr. Arenas is the last of 12 amateur soccer players kidnapped on October 11 by unidentified perpetrators and held for several days before being slain. There was one survivor of the massacre, an 18-year-old boy, who was found alive on Sunday and hospitalized.
The incident has renewed tensions between the Venezuelan and Colombian governments. President Hugo Chávez has alluded that the men may have been spies for Colombia’s state security agency, while spokesmen for the regional government of Táchira have blamed units of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a Colombian paramilitary guerilla group. On Monday, Venezuela denied permission for a Colombian government plane to land in Venezuela to repatriate the remains of the dead and despite pleas from Colombian authorities, the Venezuelan government has refused to cooperate with its neighbor on an investigation into the murders.
Colombian officials and family members of the victims contend that they were simply playing a pick-up game of soccer. William Bello, the father of one of the dead, has said that his son was a street vendor who worked near the Colombia-Venezuela border crossing and had never had a run-in with the law. This most recent massacre raises the number of Colombians killed in recent weeks in Venezuela to at least 20 people.