Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday that a Colombian paramilitary group collaborated in the killing of a young Venezuelan congressman earlier this month.
At a televised meeting with congressmen and press, Maduro presented surveillance video and what appeared to be a taped confession during a Wednesday news conference on the stabbing death of 27-year-old lawmaker Robert Serra.
The Colombian connection
The Venezuelan head of state alleged that the paramilitary group led by “El Colombiano” had bribed the bodyguard of the socialist legislator to commit murder with the aim of destabilizing Venezuela.
The country is deeply divided between supporters and opponents of the socialist leadership that has successfully consolidated power through key election victories since late President Hugo Chavez was first elected in 1999. However, the approval of the government of Maduro is met by a massive and en equally vocal opposition that is supported by the traditional elite and private media.
According to Maduro, this elite is working together with Colombia’s elites, and Colombian paramilitary forces have long been blamed for carrying out operations in Venezuela, including one that sought the assassination of Maduro.
Uribe’s ties to Venezuelan ‘terrorists’
Maduro previously accused Uribe, an outspoken ally of Venezuela’s conservative opposition, of having participated in the plot to kill Serra.
On Wednesday however, the Venezuelan president said Uribe maintains links to groups working against Venezuela and added that the Colombian government had been collaborating to arrest Venezuelan “terrorists” who had been surrendered to Venezuelan authorities by Colombia.
According to Uribe and the Venezuelan opposition, the two student activists’ human rights were at risk under the custody of what the conservative opposition forces in both Colombia and Venezuela consider a ” totalitarian regime.”
According to the students’ organization, Operation Freedom, the expelled Lorent Gomez and Gabriel Valles were active in promoting “human rights, freedom and democracy,” a representative told the BBC.
However, photos leaked to Colombian media showed Gomez carrying an automatic rifle only allowed by members of the military. On a second photo, the student is seen hugging Uribe.
Colombia’s former president has consistently criticized the Venezuelan government during Chavez and Maduro, ideological opposites of Colombia’s hard-line ex-president. Uribe is similarly critical of his successor who has tried to maintain good relations with Venezuela, an important trade partner.