Colombia urged the United States on Monday to declare neighbor Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism for allegedly shielding dissident fighters thought to be behind an attack on President Ivan Duque’s helicopter last month.
The situation merits “a declaration on the part of the United States of (Venezuela) as a state sponsor of terrorism,” Duque said at an event at which US ambassador Philip Goldberg was present.
Last week, Bogota said the attack was planned from Venezuela by dissidents who distanced themselves from the FARC’s 2016 peace deal with the government, and a former Colombian army officer.
Duque’s helicopter was approaching Cucuta airport on a flight from Sardinata on June 25 when several shots — apparently from rifles — were fired at it.
The president was flying with Defense Minister Diego Molano, Interior Minister Daniel Palacios and other officials.
No one on board was injured, but photos released by the president’s office showed the helicopter’s tail and main blade had been hit.
Molano later announced the arrest of some of the alleged perpetrators, adding: “It is clear that this attack against the president… was planned from Venezuela.”
Duque has on numerous occasions accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of harboring FARC dissidents and ELN fighters in his country — claims Caracas denies.
Last week, Molano charged that “the Maduro regime continues to shelter terrorists, from where attacks against Colombian institutions are planned.”
Countries on the US terror sponsors list are Iran, North Korea, Syria and, since the last weeks of Donald Trump’s presidential term, Cuba.
Ending up on the list can bring about an array of sanctions as well as a ban on defense exports and sales and restrictions on US foreign assistance.
On Monday, Duque warned his government would “completely dismantle” the FARC dissident movement allegedly behind the attack on him and earlier on a military base that injured 44.
“We are going to break it and the Colombian nation will become firm against any form of terrorism,” said the president.
Colombia has seen a recent spike in violence — driven by FARC dissidents battling over disputed drug trafficking routes with paramilitary groups and the ELN, Colombia’s last active guerilla group.
“Don’t be so cynical,” Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza reacted to Duque’s statement on Twitter.
“You are in charge of a… government that exports drugs and violence. A factory of terrorists in power that has liquidated the option of internal peace and sends mercenaries to generate violence and assassinate presidents in the region.”
This was a reference to the alleged involvement of Colombian ex-soldiers in the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise on July 7.
Colombia and Venezuela have not had diplomatic ties since 2019, when Colombia joined the United States and other countries in rejecting President Nicolas Maduro’s disputed reelection, recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido instead.
The neighbors share a border of some 2,200 kilometers (1,370 miles).
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Monday to Colombian Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez.
On the call, he “emphasized the importance of defending and advancing democracy in the region, particularly in Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba,” according to department spokesman Ned Price.