Duque accuses Maduro of financing, supporting Christian-Communist rebels in Colombia

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CARTAGENA – President Iván Duque pointed to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as a “promoter” and “financier” of the Colombian communist guerrilla National Liberation Army (ELN) and asked the international community to make a statement on the matter.

“No one is lying that Nicolás Maduro has been a promoter, sponsor and financier of the ELN. The big ELN leaders are in Venezuelan territory, he has been giving them weapons, money and support for several years,” Duque said to the press in Cartagena in northern Colombia, according to statements released by the Presidency of Colombia.

He also noted that “the world must know that Venezuela is violating international law, promoting terrorism and that, clearly, also deserves a strong pronouncement by multilateral organizations.”

Duque made the claim in reference to military intelligence reports according to which Maduro would have ordered not to attack members of the ELN in Venezuela and, instead, to provide logistical collaboration.

Other intelligence documents would also reveal that there is a joint plan between the Maduro administration and the ELN to spy on some military bases in Colombia and that the operation would be in charge of a Venezuelan colonel.

“We are not going to allow any kind of espionage in our country, and if we detect espionage, we are the first to denounce it as we have been doing,” he said.

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In this regard, he indicated that he asked Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo to “bring these complaints to the Lima Group,” since, he said, Maduro has also handed arms to the ELN, which “is a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 and constitutes, moreover, a serious precedent in international law.”

Duque also assured that the Venezuelan president “is not only encouraging the ELN to recruit children on the Venezuelan border with Colombia, but also, they are encouraging them to produce criminal acts.”

Similarly, he noted that “for no one is a lie that the ELN operates in Venezuelan territory as a terrorist corps in the service of Nicolás Maduro, who also manages illegal mining businesses.”

The ELN guerrilla initiated public dialogues of peace with the government of Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018) in February 2017, but they were suspended on August 7, when Duque assumed office, demanding the rebel group release all the hostages and the cessation of hostilities as a condition for resuming negotiations.

The Government ended the dialogue following a car bomb attack blamed on the ELN on January 17 against the General Santander Cadet School in Bogotá, which left 22 students dead and 66 more wounded.

Meanwhile, relations between Bogotá and Caracas have become more tense since the opposition deputy Juan Guaidó proclaimed himself “interim president” of Venezuela and the Duque government recognized him immediately, together with the US and some 50 countries.

Maduro, who assumed his second term on January 10 after elections that the opposition boycotted, called Guaidó’s declaration of attempted coup and blamed the United States for having orchestrated it.

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