Venezuela Rejects Colombia’s ‘Cynical’ Terror Allegations

Mexico has proposed a new regional body to replace the OAS, where regional issues can be addressed.

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A large group of people pose in front of a castle in Mexico City
Foreign Ministers from Latin American and the Caribbean, including Venezuela’s Jorge Arreaza and Colombia’s Marta Lucia Ramírez, took part in a CELAC summit in Mexico City. (@SRE_mx / Twitter)
By José Luis Granados Ceja
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Mexico City, Mexico, July 28, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza accused Colombian President Iván Duque of leading a “narco government” and an “exporter of drugs and violence” after the latter called on the United States to list Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism.

“Don’t be so cynical [Duque]. You are at the head of a narco government that exports drugs and violence. A factory of terrorists in power that has eliminated the option of internal peace and sends mercenaries to generate violence and assassinate Presidents in the region,” wrote Arreaza on Twitter.

The Venezuelan foreign minister was referencing the fact that a sizable group of Colombian mercenaries, many with ties to the Colombian Armed Forces, are accused of involvement in the assasination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise on July 7. Venezuelan authorities have presented evidence of the participation of Colombian agents in criminal plots in the country, including efforts to assassinate President Nicolás Maduro.

Duque’s call for the US to list Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism would carry serious consequences for Maduro’s government and would likely further exacerbate the country’s economic crisis, already strained under US-led sanctions.

The Colombian president made the request at the “International Seminar on Analysis and Prevention of Urban Terrorism” where US ambassador to Colombia Philip Goldberg was present. Duque defended the listing after accusing Venezuela of sheltering dissident FARC fighters thought to be behind an attack on his helicopter last month.

Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano went one step further and claimed, without presenting evidence, that the attack was planned inside Venezuela. Meanwhile, Colombian Attorney General Francisco Barbosa accused Andrés Fernando Medina Rodríguez, a retired Colombian Army captain, of being responsible for the attack.

The two neighbors have had an increasingly strained relationship in recent years, with Caracas severing diplomatic ties in 2019 after Colombia played a leading role in Juan Guaidó’s coup effort. Guaidó, whom Bogotá still recognizes as Venezuela’s president, has also previously accused the Maduro government of supporting terrorist organizations.

Nonetheless both countries’ foreign ministers met in Mexico City last Saturday to take part in a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), though no bi-lateral meetings between Colombia and Venezuela were reported.

Ahead of the summit, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called for the Organization of American States (OAS) to be cast aside and be replaced with a new regional body, closer to the form of the European Union. López Obrador added that it should be “a truly autonomous body, not anyone’s lackey, but a mediator at the request and acceptance of the parties to conflicts in matters of human rights and democracy.”

Colombian Vice-President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucia Ramírez immediately declared her support for the OAS.

The Mexican government’s distaste for the OAS is no secret, with Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard openly criticizing the role played by current Secretary-General Luis Almagro. Ebrard called his administration “one of the worst in history” for overstepping his authority and the role played by the OAS in the November 2019 coup in Bolivia.

López Obrador did not specify if CELAC—which counts among its members all the states of the Western Hemisphere, with the exception of the United States and Canada—should be the organization that replaces the Washington DC-headquartered OAS.

CELAC has seen a revival under the leadership of Mexico, which holds the pro-tempore presidency of the regional body for 2021. After several years of not holding meetings, the CELAC summit of foreign ministers formally announced the end of the “reflection period” that began in September 2018. CELAC will hold a summit of the heads of state in Mexico in September, the first such gathering in four years.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.