In his most outspoken rejection yet, Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos said Monday that his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro is “establishing a dictatorship.”
In an interview with television network Caracol, the Colombian President said that “it hurts me a lot what is happening in Venezuela. They are installing a dictatorship, ending democracy.”
Maduro has come under international criticism after holding a vote last month in which the Venezuelan people elected a constituent assembly with the mandate to change the constitution and indefinitely sideline the opposition-controlled national assembly.
More than 100 people have died in anti-government protests in the neighboring country that have been waging for months.
Santos and multiple other leaders in the Americas have refused to recognize the vote that was boycotted by the opposition and not monitored by independent electoral observers.
We must be solidary with the people of Venezuela, but can’t be solidary with the regime that is imposing a dictatorship.
President Juan Manuel Santos
While not ruling out the possibility of breaking diplomatic relations with Colombia’s neighbor to the east, Santos said that doing so would “bring more problems than benefits in the sense that keeping at least one communication channel open is important.”
According to Santos, the breaking of ties with Venezuela should be supported by the international community, in particular other countries in the region.
The political crisis in Venezuela has been accompanied by an economic and social crisis that has uprooted many tens of thousands of Venezuelan nationals and Colombians living in Venezuela.
The influx of Venezuelan refugees has become visible in virtually all Colombian cities where citizens of the neighboring country have been seeking jobs, particularly in Colombia’s huge informal sector where wage controls do not exist and workers are easily exploited.