We’ll harden the siege against Maduro until he leaves, Colombia President Duque says

Colombian President Ivan Duque speaks with Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer during the Americas Conference Series at the University of Miami Braman Miller Center on Friday, September 27, 2019.
Colombian President Ivan Duque speaks with Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer during the Americas Conference Series at the University of Miami Braman Miller Center on Friday, September 27, 2019.

Colombian President Ivan Duque accused Venezuelan ruler Nicolás Maduro on Friday of heading a “brutal dictatorship” that arms and protects narco-terrorists, calling his government a global threat comparable to the Taliban.

Duque, who attended the U.N.’s General Assembly this week in New York, said there is a stronger commitment today from the international coalition opposing Maduro to end his regime, with countries pledging to adopt harsher measures.

“All the countries talking about Venezuela in the United Nations, we all agreed to increase the diplomatic siege and the sanctions until we reach” three goals, he said: the end of Maduro’s government, the establishment of a transitional government and free elections.

Colombia is the country most affected by the Venezuela crisis. It has taken in more than 1.4 million Venezuelans fleeing Maduro and the country’s economic collapse.

Speaking at a forum held by the University of Miami and the Miami Herald, the Colombian leader also insisted that Maduro represents a regional security threat.

Duque said he presented a document this week to the U.N. and to the American States Organization showing the locations inside Venezuela of guerrilla groups protected by the Maduro regime and the locations of clandestine air strips from which they ship out drugs.

Duque said the file also shows the locations of the training camps the guerrillas run in Venezuela under the complacent gaze of the regime.

“For a very long time, in Venezuelan territory, criminals and terrorists have been... protected. They have been provided a sanctuary, they have been given arms, they have been provided with the capacity of organizing logistically,” Duque said at the event hosted by Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer.

“That protection that the Venezuelan government is providing to these illegal armed groups is comparable to the protection that at one time the Taliban regime gave Al Qaeda,” he said.

When asked if there is proof that Maduro provides arms to guerrillas, Duque said that for more than a decade the Colombian Army has been able to show that the ammunition used by these groups comes out of the Venezuelan National Guard.

Venezuela also provides the guerrilla groups with weapons, he said, adding that Colombia has been accumulating proof of this for many years.

“This dossier is not a thing put together in two or three months. It is a large amount of evidence that has been presented in an organized manner and that also shows the presence of the heads of the ELN (National Liberation Army) in Venezuelan territory, and of the dissident FARC,” he said, referring to the National Liberation Amy and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

A portion of the FARC announced recently that they were walking away from the peace plan and restarting hostilities against the Colombian government.

“Both the dissenting members of the FARC and the ELN have a direct and close relationship with the Nicolás Maduro regime and there are accusations from Venezuelan citizens that the dictatorship wants these armed groups” to cooperate with the Cartel of the Suns, he said.

According to U.S. officials, the Cartel of the Suns is headed by high-ranking Venezuelan regime members and it controls drug trafficking operations in Venezuela.

Duque, who stopped in Miami while returning to Colombia, said that Maduro’s support of the FARC and the ELN justifies the adoption of harsher sanctions against the regime under the Rio Treaty, a regional mutual-protection pact enacted recently by the U.S. and Latin American nations opposing the entrenched Venezuelan leader.

Bold action, he said, is needed to put an end to what is a growing regional threat.

“This is not a geopolitical confrontation; this is not a clash between powers,” he said. “This is about ending a dictatorship promoting terrorism and ending a dictatorship that is creating the worst migration crisis seen by Latin America in recent history.”

Follow Antonio María Delgado in Twitter: @DelgadoAntonioM