Venezuela points finger at Duque for breakdown of Colombian peace process

Colombian senators and ex-peace negotiators Ivan Marquez and Jesus Santrich announce the return to arms of FARC-EP faction, from Inirida in the Colombian jungle.

The Venezuelan government has blamed Colombian President Ivan Duque’s policies for the reignition of armed conflict in the country.

Caracas also rejected Bogota’s accusations that it had played a role in the breakdown of the 2016 peace agreements between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — People’s Army (FARC-EP).

“It is incredible that Ivan Duque, with absolute impertinence … looks to displace his exclusive responsibility in the planned dismantling of the peace process … to third party countries,” the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry stated in a communiqué on August 30.

The statement reiterated Venezuela’s commitment to “real peace” in Colombia, while pointing the finger at the Colombian government for causing the breakdown through “calculated decisions” and turning a blind eye to human rights violations, including “hundreds of targeted assassinations”.

After a faction of the FARC-EP announced their return to armed struggle on August 29, Duque accused the Venezuelan government of offering “support” and “refuge” to the rebels, as well as fostering a return to armed conflict in the neighbouring country.

FARC commanders Ivan Marquez, Jesus Santrich and “El Paisa” announced their decision in a video filmed from the Colombian jungle town of Inirida, justifying their decision by claiming that more than 500 social leaders and 150 disarmed ex-guerrilla fighters have been murdered since the 2016 peace accords, while also pointing towards other parts of the agreement which have not been upheld by the Colombian government.

Earlier this year Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro caused a stir by saying former peace negotiators Santrich and Marquez would be “welcome” in Venezuela in their position as “peace leaders”. Both men are currently being sought by Colombian authorities, with US$860,000 being offered for their capture. Despite Maduro’s words, neither man travelled to Caracas.

Accusations of ties between Caracas and the Marxist FARC-EP guerrilla organisation, which the United States government defines as terrorist, have been made against both the Maduro and previous Hugo Chavez governments, despite repeated denials and little evidence produced to back the claims.

Venezuela issues military warning to Colombia

Following the rebels’ announcement, Colombian General Nicacio Martinez announced that a “special group” had been established to hunt for the FARC-EP guerrillas. Seven arrests were made only kilometres from the Venezuelan border in the Norte de Santander region on August 31.

In response, Venezuela’s defence minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez issued a warning to his Colombian counterparts to “not seek excuses or pretexts with false flags to violate [Venezuelan] sovereignty,” recalling the 2008 Angostura Bombing in which Colombian forces crossed into Ecuador to bomb FARC positions.

“We will safeguard our sovereignty and [should it be breached] we will respond militarily, and we will do so in an overwhelming fashion in legitimate defence,” Padrino warned on Twitter.

Guaido offers support to Duque

Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaido offered Duque his support in finding the FARC-EP rebels.

Guaido also took the opportunity to publicly slam the Maduro government, which he claims is “usurping” its functions.

“The legitimate [Guaido] government of Venezuela repudiates the return to arms announced yesterday by the dissidents of the FARC under the auspices of the usurper [Maduro] regime.”

Guaido also accused the government of providing “sanctuary” for armed groups and “violating international law”.

Guaido’s comments came in the wake of a series of appointments of “presidential commissioners” made by him on August 28 in his role as president of the Venezuelan National Assembly.

Right-wing opposition leader Julio Borges was tapped as presidential commissioner for foreign affairs and will have the specific task of “increasing international diplomatic and financial pressure on the dictator”. Borges has previously been vocal in his calls for increased sanctions against Venezuela.

Far-right leader Leopoldo Lopez was appointed “presidential commissioner for the government centre”, with the task of coordinating the other “commissioners”.

Lopez and Borges are fleeing charges from the Venezuelan justice system. Borges is based in Colombia and Lopez sought refuge in the Spanish Embassy in Caracas.

Guaido also named Alejandro Plaz as commissioner for “economic development”, Javier Troconis for “asset recuperation” and Humberto Prado for “human rights”.

All three currently live outside Venezuela.

[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis]

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