Minister says security services believe Venezuelans were linked to plot to kill conservative leader
Colombian authorities are investigating an alleged plot involving Venezuelans to assassinate the country’s president, Iván Duque, a senior official has said.
The foreign minister, Carlos Holmes, said Colombia’s intelligence services had heard of an alleged plan to kill the conservative Duque. He said the recent arrests of three Venezuelans in possession of assault weapons had increased authorities’ concern.
“With immense concern and the utmost condemnation, I want to inform the international community that, in effect, for the past several months, intelligence investigations have been taking place about possible attacks on the president’s life,” Holmes said in a video posted on Twitter.
Blu Radio reported that the Venezuelans arrested in the northern Caribbean cities of Valledupar and Barranquilla this month had in their possession an assault rifle with a telescopic sight, a 9mm mini Uzi submachine gun, ammunition and a stun grenade.
Citing sources it did not identify, Blu said any alleged plot would have likely had the support of armed Colombian leftwing rebels or drug-trafficking organisations and would have coincided with the start of the Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro’s second term next month.
Holmes’ 90-second video did not cite any evidence and carefully avoided saying whether authorities had verified the existence of any conspiracy.
There was no immediate reaction from Venezuela’s government.
Holmes appealed to Colombians to share any information that could affect the president’s safety. He also thanked unidentified foreign intelligence agencies for helping to protect Duque.
Duque, who took office in August, has been leading a diplomatic effort in Latin America to isolate Venezuela’s socialist government as Maduro looks to cement his hold on power despite a devastating economic crisis. Millions of Venezuelans have fled the country to escape widespread food shortages and hyperinflation.
Colombia, the US and several other foreign governments say Maduro’s election victory in May amid an opposition boycott and allegations of vote-rigging was illegitimate and are urging him to call new elections in which all of his opponents, several of whom have been exiled or banned from holding office, be allowed to run.
Maduro has recently accused neighbouring Colombia of plotting with the US to topple him from power.