A group of defected Venezuelan soldiers have said they would try to violently oust disputed President Nicolas Maduro, who began talks with the opposition, reported news agency Reuters on Tuesday.
According to the news agency, the eight men who talked to Reuters claimed to represent a much larger group of defectors who have been staying in Colombia after several failed attempts by opposition leader Juan Guaido to oust Maduro.
The news agency was unable to verify whether former army sergeant Eddier Rodriguez, who said to lead the group, could count on the 150 men the former members of Venezuela’s armed forces said to represent.
The former soldiers reportedly cannot count on the support of Colombia’s government, said Victor Bautista, the border director of Colombia’s Foreign Ministry.
According to Bautista, the formation of a Venezuelan paramilitary group on Colombian soil “would be totally rejected by our government and fully taken up by the appropriate authorities to apply corresponding legal measures,” reported Reuters.
An anonymous government official told the news agency that the former soldiers could face criminal charges if they illegally obtain weapons or conspire to commit a crime.
According to Rodriguez, his group had already acquired handguns and were seeking to buy further equipment to “liberate” Venezuela.
An intelligence official, who also asked to remain anonymous, said that Colombian intelligence agencies had detected a number of Venezuelan militias in the country, but could not take action because they had not committed any crimes.
Rodriguez confirmed he has been in touch with other anti-Maduro militia groups.
The Reuters report came on the day that representatives of the Venezuelan government and the country’s opposition met in Norway to negotiate a way out of their country’s crisis.
Guaido has been recognized by dozens of countries from the Americas and Europe as the legitimate president of Venezuela, but has failed to oust Maduro with support of the United States.
With the exception of the administration of US President Donald Trump, governments that support Guaido have called for a negotiated solution to the crisis that has spurred millions of Venezuelans to flee the country.