Colombia’s foreign minister claims to have evidence that the government of Venezuela is actively supporting the ELN, Colombia’s largest rebel group.
The minister’s claim is based on allegedly classified Venezuelan military documents obtained by Colombian intelligence agencies.
In a response, President Ivan Duque said Friday that he “will not allow the border to become a sanctuary for the ELN” and called on the United Nations and other international bodies to acknowledge Venezuela is violating international law.
The world has to know that Venezuela is violating international law, encouraging terrorism and that this, by all means, merits a strong pronouncement by the international organizations.
Colombian President Ivan Duque
The commander of Colombia’s military forces, General Luis Fernando Navarro, claimed on Thursday that almost half of the guerrilla group’s forces are currently in Venezuelan territory.
This was confirmed by the Venezuelan opposition leader, who claimed to also have been briefed on the alleged intelligence reports.
The ELN has had virtual control over Colombia’s historically neglected border regions and has reportedly been active in Venezuela for decades.
Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, rejected the claims and accused the Colombian government of being a scandalously compulsive” liar.
Duque lies in a scandalously compulsive manner to evade his responsibilities and distract public opinion.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza
What is in the alleged documents?
In one of the documents leaked to Red Mas, a top military commander described the ELN as an “allied force” that may not be attacked.
Other documents indicated that the Venezuelan armed forces have provided explosives and money to the Colombian guerrillas.
Furthermore, Venezuelan intelligence forces would be present in Colombia, and in particular in the vicinity of the country’s military bases.
No other news outlet has been able to verify the veracity of the documents.
Colombia increases diplomatic pressure on Maduro
Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said he shared the documents with the Lima Group, a provisional union of countries from the Americas that do not recognize Nicolas Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate president.
Like Colombia, the Lima Group supports Juan Guaido, who declared himself president in January.
But unlike Colombia, the Lima Group has categorically rejected any military intervention in Venezuela and, like European countries that support Guaido, have called for a political solution.
Military tension have been high between the two neighboring countries after Colombian President Ivan Duque became one of the most active allies of Venezuela’s opposition leader.
What do independent sources say?
According to the International Crisis Group, the ELN has been taking advantage of ongoing chaos and lawlessness in Venezuela to expand its activity in gold mining operations in the southern jungles of the country and has expanded its presence to the east of the neighboring country.
The ELN operates in at least thirteen out of Venezuela’s 24 States, while several of its leaders live in Venezuela. According to Fundaredes, a Venezuela-based NGO, the ELN controls radio stations, influences school curriculums and is closely connected to local politicians.
International Crisis Group
The ELN has been active in Venezuela since the 1990s, which allegedly increased after the 1999 election of late President Hugo Chavez, who was ideologically aligned with the Colombian guerrillas and opposed to dynasty politicians like Duque that have ruled both countries for centuries.
Duque broke off peace talks with the group after a terrorist attack that killed 22 and injured more than 60 people in Bogota in January, but has had major trouble maintaining public order in the country, beyond territories where the ELN is known to be active.