Colombian authorities said on Thursday (22) that the attack on the helicopter in which President Iván Duque was traveling at the end of June was planned from Venezuela by a former Colombian military man and dissidents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The presidential aircraft was shot several times as it approached an airport in the city of Cúcuta, on the Venezuelan border, during a visit following a car bomb attack on a military installation in the region. The president and those accompanying him were unharmed.
In a statement, Defense Minister Diego Molano announced that three accused had been arrested. One of them is Andrés Fernando Medina, a retired Colombian Army captain who would have designed and executed the plan against Duque, according to Attorney General Francisco Barbosa.
According to early investigations, two AK-47 rifles bearing the Venezuelan Armed Forces brand were found in the area of attack. Those arrested in the attack on Duque were also behind the car bomb that exploded on June 15 in an army barracks, leaving 44 injured — there were no deaths.
Barbosa added that behind the two events is the 33rd front of FARC dissidents, led by a man who works under the pseudonym João Mechas. In addition to the former soldier and his accomplices, seven other people were arrested for allegedly participating in the attack on the barracks.
The base used by the 30th Army Brigade, in the San Rafael neighborhood, is the most important in this area on the Colombia-Venezuela border, as operations against illegal groups are coordinated from there.
Heavily militarized on both sides, the Colombia-Venezuela border region has been the scene of clashes between local criminal groups, guerrillas and their dissidents. Despite the peace agreement with the FARC, the country’s military continues to face members of the National Liberation Army (ELN), gangs and former FARC members who reject the pact — all of them operate in the province of Norte de Santander, where the 30th Brigade operates.
Duque repeatedly accused dictator Nicolás Maduro of harboring dissidents and ELN troops in Venezuelan territory. “It is necessary to make a reflection to the international community […]: Maduro’s regime continues to harbor terrorists, from which they are planning attacks on Colombian institutions,” said Molano. With no diplomatic ties since 2019, the two countries share a 2,200 km border.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza used his Twitter feed to respond to the Colombian minister. “Once again, they are using Venezuela to try to hide their country’s tragedy,” he wrote, adding that Colombia is gripped by violence and armed groups, with an economy dependent on drug trafficking.
The Maduro dictatorship also accuses Duque of infiltrating “destabilizing agents” through the Cucuta region, supposedly sent by the US, to attack the regime. In addition to its military importance, the region is one of the main exit points for refugees from Venezuela and has great relevance geopolitics.
There are also the famous “trochas” through which the smuggling of drugs, fuel and other goods pass through. Colombia, the world’s largest exporter of cocaine, is facing the worst outbreak of violence since the signing of the peace agreement with the FARC.