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Colombia is launching an elite commando task force to fight drug trafficking groups that President Ivan Duque considers “supported” by Venezuela. In 2019, however, he presented misleading photos to the UN as evidence.

The Colombian government officially launches this February 26 an elite commando in charge of fighting drug traffickers, dissidents of armed groups and guerrillas who, according to Bogota, operate from border Venezuela with the protection of Caracas.

This Colombian militia specializing in the fight against drug trafficking and transnational threats is part of the army and is due to begin operations in May. Its stated objective is to fight criminal organizations and drug trafficking, such as the Gulf clan, members of the former FARC and rebels of the National Liberation Army (ELN).

When announcing its launch on February 7, right-wing Colombian President Ivan Duque, who did not specify the number of soldiers who make up the force, said the targeted armed groups “had found refuge” in Venezuela. , with which his country shares 2,219 kilometers of border. “The objective for this year is to strike the leaders of narcoterrorism so that they are captured or slaughtered,” he said, asserting that “many of them [étaient] protected in Venezuela ”.

The evidence ?

However, Bogota is struggling to produce evidence to support its accusations against Venezuela. In 2019, in his speech to the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Colombian President Ivan Duque presented a report with a series of photos indicating the alleged existence of guerrilla camps on Venezuelan lands that he handed over. to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. One of the photos showed, according to Ivan Duque, guerrillas believed to belong to the ELN carrying out the “indoctrination” of students of “rural schools” in the Venezuelan state of Tachira in April 2018. Problem: These photos are turned out to be images taken in 2013 … in Colombia. A check carried out at the time by the daily El Colombiano of Medellin and confirmed by Agence France Presse (AFP) for at least two of the photos presented by the Colombian president.

Faced with recurring allegations from Colombia and the United States, which assert that the Venezuelan power is piloting illegal groups of drug traffickers, Caracas protests, rejecting these accusations altogether. For its part, the Venezuelan government regularly criticizes Ivan Duque for financing and hosting in his country paramilitary camps led by Venezuelan opponents and responsible for drawing up conspiracy plans against Venezuela and aiming to assassinate Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro promises to “respond with force” to the creation of the commando

The Venezuelan president promised on February 17 to respond to the creation of the Colombian commando. At a press conference in Caracas, Nicolas Maduro said he ordered the country’s armed forces “to respond forcefully to the reckless statements of Colombian President Ivan Duque on Venezuela” and “to clean the barrels of our rifles. […] if Ivan Duque dares to violate the sovereignty of Venezuela ”. “Don’t be crazy, Ivan Duque! Know your limits and respect Venezuela, ”warned Nicolas Maduro.

Despite the 2016 peace accord, Colombia continues to face a bloody, multi-faceted armed conflict involving left-wing guerrillas, drug traffickers and right-wing paramilitaries vying for control of the lucrative areas of the country. cocaine production and illegal mineral extraction.

Venezuela severed diplomatic relations with Colombia in February 2019, after Ivan Duque recognized, like Washington, the opponent Juan Guaido as interim president. A few months later, in two pictures shown on television by the Venezuelan Attorney General, we could recognize two men, members of “Los Rastrojos”, a gang of Colombian “drug traffickers and paramilitaries”, in the company of … Juan Guaido.

Meriem Laribi

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