January 24, 2019

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Colombia Investigates a Possible Plot to Assassinate President, Official Says

Colombia Investigates a Possible Plot to Assassinate President, Official Says
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BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Colombia is investigating a possible plot to assassinate President Ivan Duque that may involve Venezuelan nationals arrested while carrying “weapons of war,” according to a top official.

Without providing evidence or any further details, Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes posted a 90-second video on Twitter Saturday night that said Colombia’s intelligence services had been hearing chatter about alleged plans to kill Mr. Duque, a conservative.

He said the recent arrests of three Venezuelans who had assault weapons in their possession had heightened the authorities’ concern.

“With immense concern and the utmost condemnation, I want to inform the international community that, in effect, for the past several months intelligence investigations have been taking place about possible attacks on the president’s life,” Mr. Holmes said in the video.

The video did not say whether the authorities had verified the existence of a conspiracy.

Blu Radio reported that the Venezuelans, who were arrested in the cities of Valledupar and Barranquilla this month, had in their possession an assault rifle with a telescopic scope, as well as an Uzi, ammunition and stun grenade.

Blu, citing unidentified sources, said any plot would have likely had the support of armed Colombian leftist rebels or drug-trafficking organizations, and would have been timed to coincide with the start of the second term next month of President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela.

There was no immediate reaction from Venezuela’s government.

In his video, Mr. Holmes appealed to Colombians to share any information that could affect the president’s safety. He expressed appreciation for the cooperation of unidentified foreign intelligence agencies for helping to protect the Colombian president.

Mr. Duque, 42, who took office in August, has been leading a diplomatic effort in Latin America to isolate Venezuela’s socialist government as Mr. Maduro looks set to cement his hold on power amid a devastating economic crisis that has spurred millions of Venezuelans to flee to neighboring countries to escape widespread food and medicine shortages and hyperinflation.

The Colombian leader has been a strong critic of the socialist government of Mr. Maduro, whom he has called a “dictator.”

The two neighboring countries have had tense relations for years, with soldiers and helicopters from the Bolivarian National Guard of Venezuela regularly crossing the porous border into Colombia.

Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and other nations have struggled with the strain of thousands of desperate Venezuelans pouring into border towns.

Colombia, the United States and other foreign governments say that Mr. Maduro’s election victory in May amid an opposition boycott and allegations of vote-rigging was illegitimate.

They are urging the embattled leader to call new elections in which all of his opponents, several of whom have been exiled or banned from holding office, be allowed to run.

Mr. Maduro has been ratcheting up his rhetoric against Colombia in recent weeks, accusing his neighbor of plotting with the United States to violently oust him from power. He accused Colombia of helping “terrorists” after an attempted armed drone attack in August. Colombia has denied the accusations.

In a historic rebuke in September, five Latin American countries and Canada urged the International Criminal Court to consider prosecuting senior officials in Venezuela for extensive human rights abuses, the first time that member nations had referred another member to the tribunal.





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