Colombia arrested three Venezuelan citizens on Saturday over an alleged plot to kill conservative President Ivan Duque.
“With immense concern and the utmost condemnation, I want to inform the international community that, in effect, for several months, there have been intelligence probes into possible attacks against the life of the president,” Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said in a video posted on Twitter.
“Intelligence investigations into possible attacks have been going on for several months,” he continued. “Added to that is the recent capture of three Venezuelan citizens found in possession of weapons of war, which further increases concerns.”
— Carlos Holmes Trujillo (@CarlosHolmesTru) December 30, 2018
According to Reuters, two of the Venezuelan men were detained December 21st on a bus in the northern city of Valledupar, while the third was arrested days later. Police reportedly found the men in possession of weapons including an “assault rifle with a telescopic scope as well as a 9-mm mini-Uzi, ammunition and a stun grenade.” Following the arrests, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel all offered to help boost Duque’s security.
Although Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro has yet to officially comment on the charges, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza claimed on Sunday that the regime was willing to provide “the necessary police and intelligence cooperation” to help with the investigation and had demanded information on the three Venezuelans arrested.
In August, Maduro claimed to be the target of an unsuccessful assassination attempt, an incident he consequently blamed on then Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Duque had not yet entered office.
“The name of [former Colombian President] Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack,” Maduro said at the time. “The initial investigations point to Bogota.”
The latest alleged plot comes amid rising tensions between the two countries, as Duque’s administration supports international efforts to oust Nicolás Maduro’s socialist dictatorship from power. In September, the Colombian government refused to sign a declaration ruling out a military solution to the crisis, leading to repeated claims from Maduro that Colombia is planning an invasion of the country backed by the United States.
Colombia is undoubtedly the country most heavily affected by Venezuela’s dire economic crisis. The nation has accepted thousands of Venezuelan refugees every day, many of whom are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
This month, Colombia also complained to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet over the “arbitrary detention” of 59 of its citizens on terrorism charges, pointing to the lack of due process in their legal proceedings and denouncing the “deplorable” prison conditions in which they are forced to live.