Colombia denies it’s plotting with Brazil’s new president to invade Venezuela

Colombia on Tuesday rejected news reports that it would support any effort by Brazil’s president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, to topple Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

At a press conference, Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said the government “rejects and denies” the contention that Colombia has any plans to use force in Venezuela.

The comments come after Brazil’s Folha De S.Paulo newspaper, citing an anonymous Colombian diplomat, said the nation would back Bolsonaro if he decided to attack Venezuela.

Bolsonaro, a far-right politician who won Sunday’s election with the promise of revitalizing the military and stamping out corruption, has been an outspoken critic of Venezuela. But, in response to the Folha article, he also denied any plans for an invasion. Even so, his rise to power leaves Caracas increasingly isolated. Longtime allies like Brazil and Ecuador have voted in governments that are taking Venezuela to task.

Trujillo said Colombian President Iván Duque would maintain Colombia’s tradition of non-intervention and “is looking for regional and multilateral diplomatic actions that can create the conditions so that, sooner rather than later, our brothers in Venezuela can live in democracy and liberty.”

Venezuela’s deep economic, social and political crisis has rattled the region, with more than 2 million migrants leaving the country in recent years — many going to neighboring Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.

This week, Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra said his nation will quit issuing temporary work permits for Venezuelans who arrive there after Wednesday. He said the South American nation had received 500,000 Venezuelan migrants but only had the capacity to handle about 200,000.

Venezuela routinely accuses Colombia of plotting to overthrow Maduro, who has been in power since 2013 after twice winning highly contested elections. And the government has also accused Colombia and others of exaggerating the number of Venezuelans fleeing as part of a campaign to paint the once-rich nation as a failed state.