Venezuela’s Maduro Warns of Colombia ‘Threat’ as Trump Fires Bolton

Venezuelan military exercises along the border started on Tuesday.

Maduro addressed the National Security Defense Council on Monday. (Twitter/@NicolasMaduro)
Maduro addressed the National Security Defense Council on Monday. (Twitter/@NicolasMaduro)

Philadelphia, September 11, 2019 ( – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro denounced a “warmongering threat” from Colombia on Monday.

Speaking in a televised address, Maduro ordered the country’s National Security Defense Council, led by the president himself, to navigate a “threatening scenario against Venezuela.”

The National Security Defense Council is made up of representatives from Venezuela’s five public powers, the National Constituent Assembly and senior military staff.

“We have evidence of conspiracies being hatched in Colombia to send terrorist groups to attack civilian and military targets,” he said, while also denouncing efforts from Colombia to flip military officials and target Venezuela’s radar, air defense and logistical systems.

Maduro exhorted Colombian civilian and political actors to put both countries’ “historical interests” ahead of any “extremist plan” from the Colombian government. He ended by calling for a “de-escalation” of tensions and asked for international support in defence of peace.

Shortly after Monday’s address, “Peace and Sovereignty” military exercises kicked off on Tuesday along the border with Colombia. The drills will last until September 28.

Maduro made the statement amid rising tensions between Caracas and Bogota.

On August 28, a faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced a “new phase of armed struggle,” citing the Colombian government’s failure to implement the 2016 peace accords.

In response, hard-right Colombian President Ivan Duque ordered the mobilization of military units and specifically accused his Venezuelan counterpart of providing “support” and “refuge” to the rebels.

For its part, Venezuela’s armed forces have accused Colombia of using the war against the FARC faction as a “pretext… to violate [Venezuelan] sovereignty.”

Last week, Venezuelan Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez unveiled what he claimed was a plot by “terrorist” groups trained in Colombia to detonate strategic targets in Caracas.

In turn, Bogota-based pro-Duque Semana Magazine published Sunday what it claimed to be leaked Venezuelan intelligence documents revealing Maduro government support for Colombian guerillas in Venezuelan territory. The allegations were rejected by the head of Venezuela’s Strategic Operations Command, Remigio Ceballos, who dismissed the documents as forgeries. The number two military commander released photos on Twitter of what he said were the original documents, which included a directive to increase access to food and other necessities in several states as part of the government’s “Great Sovereign Supply” social mission.

The Duque government recognizes self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. Guaido has offered to aid Bogota in its war against the FARC, although he gave no concrete details on what his actions would be.

Washington weighed in on the heightening Venezuelan-Colombian tensions on Wednesday, with White House Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams telling reporters that Colombia would have the “full support” of the US should a conflict with Venezuela break out. Abrams added that the US was not “closer” to a military intervention in Venezuela, but added he was “worried” about the current military exercise, while echoing Bogota’s claim of FARC and ELN presence in Venezuelan territory.

Abrams is known for his leading role in the Reagan administration’s Central America policy, including the Iran-Contra scandal, and later for advising George W. Bush in the lead up to the Iraq War.

The escalating border standoff comes as Duque and Guaido lost a stalwart anti-Maduro ally in the White House.

On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that he had fired National Security Advisor John Bolton.

A key architect of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, Bolton pushed forcefully for regime change in Venezuela and Iran. His departure reflects longstanding foreign policy rifts in Washington over the approach to Iran and North Korea as well as the recent breakdown of talks with the Afghani Taliban.

Trump said Wednesday that Bolton was “way out of line” on Venezuela, Reuters has reported.

“I disagreed with John Bolton on his attitude on Venezuela. I think he was way out of line. And I think I’ve proven to be right,” he said while speaking at the White House. The president declined to comment on whether he would meet with President Nicolas Maduro.

Edited and with additional reporting by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas.