Mérida, May 10, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan authorities have dismissed accusations that they are intervening in on-going mass protests in neighboring Colombia.
Speaking on Friday from a Miami-based forum on Defense of Democracy in Latin America, Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno claimed that “Our [Ecuador’s] and Colombia’s intelligence agencies have detected a gross intervention from the dictatorial and authoritarian regime of Nicolás Maduro [in the Colombian protests] (…) We call on Maduro to remove his bloody and corrupt hands from the democracy and stability of the Colombian people.”
The outgoing right-winger went on to describe the Venezuelan president as “the great instigator and financier of the violence in Colombia,” claiming that he had authorized public payments to pay for the “intervention.”
The evidence-free accusations were quickly echoed on social media by rightwing former Colombian Presidents Andrés Pastrana and Álvaro Uribe, with the latter writing that “They [the Maduro administration] are destroying Colombia, which has a future, in order to construct another Venezuela or Cuba, which do not.”
Following Moreno’s comments, Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano claimed a “strong” Venezuelan participation in the protests, referencing the arrest and deportation of six Venezuelan citizens allegedly participating in the protests over 10 days ago. There are an estimated 1.7 million Venezuelans living in Colombia, many of which have denounced frequent xenophobic attacks against them.
While Colombian President Iván Duque is yet to comment on the alleged “intervention,” his government decided to take action against Argentina and Cuba over the weekend, accusing them of meddling and expelling a Cuban diplomat from the country.
Both Duque and Moreno recognize US-backed self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. They also belong to the Lima Group, a regional ad hoc organization of right governments which have previously made similar accusations of Venezuelan incitement, financing or involvement in mass protests across the region, including in Colombia (2019 and 2020), Ecuador (2020), Bolivia (2019), Chile (2019 and 2020) and the United States (2020), all of which were rebutted by Caracas.
In response to the latest claims, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza described the accusations as “shameful,” going on to say that the accusers were “underestimating their people.” He also quoted Spanish poet Antonio Machado, writing via Twitter that “Lies are the most destructive weapon used by fascism.”
For his part, Chavista number two Deputy Diosdado Cabello likewise downplayed the accusations, questioning Colombian intelligence capabilities. “They couldn’t even investigate Operation Gedeon – the failed maritime incursion which happened a year ago and was planned in Colombia – but they can conclude that we [supposedly] have people there. Get out of here!” he said.
Colombia has been rocked by a wave of popular protests and strikes since April 28, with government sources claiming 27 people have died. Independent organizations have placed the figure as high as 47, with around 800 injured and more than 400 missing.
The protests were initially organized to oppose a fiscal reform which increased the poor’s tax burden. In efforts to quell the protests, Duque withdrew the reform last Sunday and Finance Minister Alberto Barrera resigned.
However, widespread police brutality, as well as accumulated grievances based around the state’s noncompliance with the 2016 Peace Agreement and other human rights violations have stoked the mass demonstrations. Despite ongoing dialogue, the protests have continued, with Duque authorizing state agencies to use “all necessary force” against them on Monday.
Reports of widespread state violence and human rights abuses have been denounced by a range of Venezuelan leftwing movements, including at a piquet outside the Colombian Consulate in Caracas on Friday.
The rally, which featured the Popular Revolutionary Alternative (APR) bloc and a number of other leftist forces, came in addition to a number of activities in solidarity with the Colombian people held across the country. Solidarity events also took place in a number of other Latin American cities, including Buenos Aires, Santiago and La Paz.
Venezuela and Colombia have had a tense relationship over past years, with diplomatic relations broken and borders closed in 2019. Recent border skirmishes have resulted in a number of deaths, with the Venezuelan government pointing to Colombian “irregular armed groups.” Additionally, Caracas has accused it neighbor’s government of backing regime change attempts, including the 2018 drone attack against Maduro, the 2019 attempted ‘humanitarian’ border incursion, the 2020 Operation Gedeon, and a 2021 foiled terrorist plot, amongst others.