Sun, 22 May 2022

Mexico City, Mexico, April 25, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro warned that Colombian President Ivan Duque was behind a plot to sow unrest on their shared border through the targeted killing of Venezuelan security forces.

The president, who further warned that Venezuela's infrastructure could also be hit, issued his warning Saturday during the 5th Congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in Caracas.

Maduro credited the information to Venezuelan intelligence and said Duque was motivated by his desire to inflict harm before the end of his presidential term in light of Venezuela's gradually improving economic situation.

"The enemies of our homeland are constantly conspiring (...) I call on all ministers, governors and mayors to be alert to neutralize and defeat the violent plans that come from the Colombian narco-government," said Maduro, who frequently accuses the Colombian government of backing organized crime groups.

Duque, who is limited to a single four-year term, hails from the far-right Democratic Center party, founded by former President Alvaro Uribe who still has significant influence on the party and Colombian politics in general.

"Anti-chavismo" has long been a key component of right-wing politics in Colombia and the bilateral relationship has been a frequent topic in the ongoing presidential race.

Election frontrunner Gustavo Petro has gone on the record that he intends to restore diplomatic relations with the Maduro government in Venezuela, saying it would help improve social conditions in the border region. Argentine President Alberto Fernandez recently announced his government's decision to fully normalize relations with Venezuela and called on countries to reopen diplomatic channels with Caracas in order to prioritize regional unity.

Caracas broke off diplomatic ties with Bogota in February 2019 after the Duque government supported efforts to violate Venezuelan borders under the guise of delivering "humanitarian aid." The Maduro government has likewise pointed the finger at its neighbor over other coup attempts, including the botched mercenary invasion codenamed "Operation Gideon."

Colombian Senator Gustavo Petro, who heads the left-wing Historic Pact coalition, has consistently polled in first place, though his support looks to be insufficient to avoid a runoff vote. The senator also reached the second round of voting in the 2018 race, eventually losing to Duque.

There are mounting concerns about the safety of Petro after the head of the Colombian Army, General Eduardo Enrique Zapateiro Altamiranda, publicly attacked Petro after the candidate made a reference to alleged collusion between members of Colombia's Armed Forces and organized crime groups.

Zapateiro is widely seen as representative of the hardline right-wing elements inside the armed forces and has triggered fears of a potential coup in the event Petro wins the election. The Colombian general has previously faced contricism over controversial statements, including a politically tinged speech during the height of protests in the city of Cali and his lament over the death of noted drug trafficker Jhon Jairo Velasquez.

Members of the armed forces are prohibited by the Colombian Constitution from intervening in politics. Prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation into Zapateiro after Senator Roy Barreras from Petro's coalition lodged a formal complaint.

Political violence is a common feature in Colombian politics. Colombia's Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a court established as part of the 2016 peace accords with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, found that some 4,616 people were killed, while 1,117 were forcibly disappeared over a three-decade period as part of a state-backed campaign against the left-wing Patriotic Union party.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.

Jose Luis Granados Ceja | source: venezuelanalysis

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