Charles Beach

My research: Cúcuta is a Colombian city that sits on the Colombo-Venezuelan border and has three bridges that cross the River Táchira into Venezuela. A mixture of Venezuelan corruption and heavily devalued goods in Venezuela leads to a vibrant smuggling trade, attracting armed gangs from all over the region. Colombian and Venezuelan gangs operate with near impunity across the unstable border. This has implications for the Colombian peace process. Despite the FARC currently demobilising, it is other guerrillas such as the Ejército Popular de Liberación (EPL) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) or para-militaries and gangs like Clan de Golfo who are fighting for territory in the border regions.

Currently the border has been shut by the Venezuelan president as a way of preventing smuggling. Only one of the bridges has been left open to foot passengers during the day time. According to the Colombian authorities this did nothing but enable gangs who run the illegal crossing routes who have escalated their violence.

These conflicts caused by the rewards of smuggling leave many internally displaced Colombians with no option other than to try and make money selling smuggled petrol in Colombia for which there is a high demand. There are several informal trade unions for petrol vendors that aim to protect themselves from para-military extortion and as well as what they see as unfair police clamp-downs on the most vulnerable actors in the supply chain. These petrol vendors named Pimpineros (named after the gallon jugs called pimpinas) form an ethnographic prism from which to view the various refractions of state sovereignty.

Supervisors: Dr Lucia Michelutti and Dr Rebecca Empsom

Published Articles:

Presentations & Conferences:

Pathway: Anthropology

Location: UCL Anthropology


Department profile: Charles Beach UCL Charles Beach

Twitter: @charles_beach_anthro