September 25, 2019 / 6:49 PM / a month ago

Colombia's Duque tells U.N. that dossier proves Maduro supports terrorists

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia will give the United Nations a dossier of “conclusive proof” of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s support for terrorist groups, President Ivan Duque said in his speech to the organisation’s General Assembly on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Colombia's President Ivan Duque addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

Colombia has long accused Maduro of sheltering rebel fighters and crime gang members. The allegations reached a fever pitch last month when several former commanders from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced they were re-arming in a video Colombian officials say was filmed in the neighbouring country.

Maduro accuses Colombia of preparing to attack Venezuela, and has repeatedly warned of an invasion coordinated with the United States.

“My government has irrefutable and conclusive proof that corroborates the support of the dictatorship for criminal and narco-terrorist groups that operate in Venezuela to try and attack Colombia,” Duque told assembled world leaders in New York, holding up a copy of the dossier.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, speaking to reporters at the U.N., called Duque’s speech “shameful.”

Duque said he would turn over the evidence to the president of the assembly and the secretary general of the United Nations.

“This dossier, of 128 pages, contains the evidence that shows the complicity of the regime of Nicolas Maduro with the terrorist cartels that attack the Colombian people.”

The dossier includes a list of some 20 criminals who are living in Venezuela, the location of more than 1,400 fighters from the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas and outlines 207 Venezuelan locations controlled by the ELN, Duque said.

The report also has testimony from Venezuelans about ELN training camps, as well as 20 landing strips used for drug trafficking airplanes, he said.

“Colombia is not and never will be an aggressor country, nor will it allow itself to be provoked by warmongering insinuations. But it will always, always raise its voice to denounce tyranny,” Duque said, adding that Venezuela urgently needs a transitional government and free elections.

Colombia is among more than 50 countries that back opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader, rejecting Maduro’s re-election last year as illegitimate.

Latin American countries on Monday agreed to impose sanctions on some members of Maduro’s government as part of efforts to force him out of office, but they expressed reservations about any use of force.

The measures would allow governments to freeze assets belonging to Maduro-linked officials within their countries, targeting those suspected of illicit activities, corruption and human rights violations.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb in Bogota; Additional reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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