Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro called his Colombian counterpart a “devil who hates Venezuela” on Thursday, and accused President Ivan Duque of conspiring to overthrow the neighbor’s authoritarian government.
“The Colombian government is dangerous because it combines hatred with inexperience,” Maduro said.
“With that little angel face, Duque deceives more than one. He has the face of an angel, but he is a devil who hates Venezuela,” the authoritarian leader said.
Maduro’s latest diatribe is the most recent instance of insult slinging between the two leaders, amid a mass migration of Venezuelan citizens to Colombia.
Tensions have been high between the two neighboring countries for a while now in the wake of the exodus of refugees fleeing hyperinflation and violence in Venezuela for Colombia.
With the country’s economy collapsing and a situation that’s predicted to only worsen, around 2.3 million people have fled from Venezuela, or around 7% of the country’s population. Around a million of those refugees have settled in Colombia, according to government estimates.
Duque’s government ended its opposition to US military intervention in Venezuela and joined a group of countries that announced they would call for a investigation against Maduro for human rights abuses by the International Criminal Court. Even more recently, Duque dismissed Venezuela as a guarantor country for peace talks with the ELN, Colombia’s last-standing guerrilla group, which he said Maduro supported in the wake of violence.
Maduro meanwhile accused Duque of being behind a botched assassination attempt against him in August and — in perhaps the most radical escalation — said he had militarized the border with Colombia.
“We are a few kilometers from the border. We are making a general inspection and deploying troops to reconnoiter the area as part of the integral strategic operation that the Bolivarian National Armed Forces is executing by order of our commander-in-chief, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro,” the head of the command of military operations, General Remigio Ceballos said on Twitter.
The move came as a reaction to a meeting between Duque met and US president Donald Trump, after which the two leaders denounced Maduro and what they called his dictatorial regime. A growing list of US officials have said that their country would take military action against Venezuela and recently the country slammed sanctions on Maduro’s “inner circle.”
US involvement has appeared to have only added fuel to the fire of conflict between the Colombian and Venezuelan governments.
Now, Maduro is accusing Colombia of being a “satellite to imperialism” of the United States, saying Colombia has bankrolled efforts to attack the Venezuelan military, Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB).
“Colombia finances the conspiracy to harm our FANB … alert our military, moral maximum, maximum loyalty, maximum commitment to the Colombian oligarchic conspiracy of the government of Ivan Duque, maximum cohesion, maximum preparation,” Maduro said.