Duque urges US to designate Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism

Bogota, Jul 26 (EFE).- Colombia’s president on Monday called on the United States to designate Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism, saying that leftist-led country is harboring guerrillas who have claimed responsibility for recent attacks on a military base and the presidential helicopter.

“Clearly that tacit consent on the part of Venezuela’s dictatorial regime warrants its being declared by the United States as a state sponsor of terrorism,” Ivan Duque said at a conference in Bogota focused on analyzing and preventing urban terrorism that was attended by US Ambassador to Colombia Philip Goldberg.

Venezuela’s government fired back almost immediately with accusations of its own.

“Duque, don’t be so cynical. You head up a narco-government that’s an exporter of drugs and violence. A terrorist factory in the power (structure) that has eliminated the possibility of domestic peace and sends mercenaries to foment violence and assassinate presidents in the region,” Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza wrote Monday on Twitter, referring to a group of Colombian military veterans accused of involvement in the July 7 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise.

Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano said last Thursday that both the June 26 attack on Duque’s helicopter as it was approaching Cucuta, a city near the border with Venezuela, and a car-bomb blast 11 days earlier inside a military base in that city were both “planned from Venezuela.”

Colombian Attorney General Francisco Barbosa said that same day that Colombian authorities have proof those attacks were perpetrated by the 33rd Front of dissidents of the now-disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group.

He said that group of dissidents, who rejected the 2016 peace deal between the government and the FARC, are led by Jhon Mechas and are taking refuge in Venezuela.

The Magdalena Medio Bloc of the FARC dissidents acknowledged in a video published over the weekend that it was behind both the car-bomb explosion targeting the Colombian army’s 30th Brigade in Cucuta and the attack on the presidential helicopter, which also was carrying Molano, Interior Minister Daniel Palacios and the governor of Norte de Santander Department, Silvano Serrano. No one was injured in the incident.

Duque on Monday stressed the need to fine-tune intelligence systems so “we can realize where the protectors of those structures (criminal groups) are located.”

The president said three leaders of the FARC dissidents – Ivan Marquez, El Paisa and Romaña – are being harbored in Venezuela.

He also said senior leaders of the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group, including Pablito and Antonio Garcia, the group’s current commander, also are taking refuge in Venezuela.

“We’re seeing cases that are absolutely irrefutable, ambassador,” Duque said.

Separately, Duque called for a “global alliance” to track the heavy machinery used by illegal groups to conduct mining activity and thereby obtain funds to finance terrorist activity.

He stressed the need to determine who is involved in transporting, buying, installing and operating machinery such as 30-ton backhoes, saying that work is not done by ordinary people.

“We’re facing an international black market where second-hand machinery also is being bought and sold. And it’s important to impose sanctions on companies that facilitate the sale” of untraceable equipment, the president said. EFE


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