Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López dismissed American National Security Adviser John Bolton as a “clown” in a rant Tuesday accusing the United States and Colombia of fabricating claims that the socialist failed state has established ties with Marxist terrorist groups.
Padrino’s replies following the death of three Venezuelan soldiers on the Colombian border, allegedly at the hands of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a Marxist terrorist organization. Intelligence operations and investigations throughout recent years have suggested that the ELN, and larger Marxist terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), cooperate with the Venezuelan socialist regime.
In remarks late Tuesday, Padrino addressed the claims that Venezuela supports Marxist terrorist groups.
“John Bolton said that these groups [paramilitaries] receive support from Venezuela because they do so from some pseudo-state organs, like the Bolivarian National Guard [GNB]. I don’t know what clown nonsense that is. We all know the degradation of politics, not just here in Venezuela but at an international level,” Padrino said, according to the Venezuelan site La Patilla. “How can it be that we protect the ELN and they come to attack our Armed Forces and how is it that our blood is shed in Amazonas [state] confronting these groups trying to enter Venezuelan territory?”
Padrino also threatened to “do what needs to be done … to protect our sacred, socialist sovereignty,” an apparent threat to the government of Colombia.
“Since the Colombian government does not want to talk to us, we will do what we have to do militarily,” Padrino warned.
In addition to Bolton, Padrino also labeled Colombia’s Ambassador to the United States Francisco Santos a “clown” for asserting that the ELN had support from within the government of socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro. Santos had previously stated in remarks in Miami that the ELN was functionally “a Venezuelan government paramilitary group.”
Venezuela has openly embraced the FARC, a much larger rival terrorist organization to the ELN that Colombia’s former President Juan Manuel Santos legalized as a political party, despite a history of hundreds of thousands of killings and abductions. Caracas has not had as open a relationship with the ELN, but many reports suggest that ELN terrorists are allowed to operate in Venezuela and even aid the government. A report in February unveiled that ELN terrorists were helping distribute boxes of food aid to socialists around the country. Venezuelans in rural areas have long complained of an outsized ELN presence on their territory.
Colombian news outlets also accuse the Venezuelan regime of providing safe haven to ELN leaders, particularly the top terror chiefs with Interpol red alerts to their name, which require participating countries to extradite the suspects in question.
Venezuela appeared to make a swift about-face on the ELN issue this weekend, however, following reports that ELN terrorists had killed three Venezuelan soldiers in the border state of Amazonas. Venezuelan authorities claimed ten other soldiers suffered injuries and that the attack was a response to Venezuelan arrests of ELN terrorists.
Padrino announced on Monday that he would move more troops to the Colombian border and order them to attack if necessary. Padrino added that Colombia was “unable to control its groups, its violence, and its drug trafficking.”
“Colombia rejects terrorism and violence generated by organized armed groups such as the ELN,” the Colombian Foreign Ministry replied. “The fight against terrorism is a duty of all the states.”
Bolton appeared to have taken precedence in the list of those Padrino insulted on Tuesday as a belated response to his anti-socialist speech delivered in Miami a week ago. Bolton accused Maduro – along with Cuban second-in-command Miguel Díaz-Canel and Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega, whom he referred to as “the Three Stooges of Socialism” – of deliberately destroying his country’s economy and political stability for personal benefit.
“In Venezuela, the United States is acting against the dictator Maduro, who uses the same oppressive tactics that have been employed in Cuba for decades,” Bolton said. “He has installed an illegitimate Constituent Assembly, debased the currency for political gain, and forced his people to sign up for a corrupt food distribution service or face certain starvation.”
Bolton, too, referred to Maduro as one of three “pathetic clowns” running Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.
Bolton’s speech also announced new sanctions on Venezuelan government officials, freezing their assets in the United States, and sanctions on Venezuela’s gold industry.