Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro claimed in remarks Thursday that the United States wishes to engineer an “armed confrontation” between Venezuelan troops and Colombian paramilitaries.
“The U.S. imperialism is preparing provocations on the border and beyond, to take Colombia and Venezuela to a state of armed confrontation, I have said several times and I reiterate,” said Maduro at a ceremony with the military. “You must be on guard and on maximum alert with the false positives of the criminal and envious oligarchy, which from Bogota fulfills the orders of Washington.”
Maduro added that “paramilitary troops” are waiting on the border between the two countries with the aim of hurting Venezuelan people and “trying to escalate a set of provocations.”
The claim comes weeks after a report by the Associated Press alleging that Trump pressed his aides last July on whether to invade Venezuela and topple the Maduro regime. Trump reportedly pulled back on the idea after discussions with his then-National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster as well as outgoing Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who both argued it would undermine U.S relationships in Latin America.
Maduro consequently warned his military during Venezuela’s independence celebrations on July 5th to not “let their guard down” and prepare to “defend the national territory” should the U.S. use military force to invade.
This week, another leading socialist lawmaker and former Chavista general, Pedro Carreño, declared that the military would respond to any U.S. military response by bombing Colombian infrastructure.
“Our Sukhois [planes] will have the responsibility of destroying the seven bridges of the Magdalena River that cross from north to south in Colombia, and divide it in two,” he explained on state television.
Maduro henchman Diosdado Cabello, head of the country’s fraudulent lawmaking body known as the “national constituent assembly,” also announced an investigation to root out any “traitors to the fatherland.”
“Anyone who is considered a traitor to the homeland in case of invasion will be treated as an enemy,” he said. “We are not going to be toppled. … Those who are asking for a humanitarian channel are really asking for a military intervention.”
Colombia’s president-elect, Ivan Duque, recently met with Florida Senator Marco Rubio to discuss their approach to ousting the Maduro regime, although no concrete details were revealed.
Relations between the two countries already hit rock bottom after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos sided with the U.S. in sanctioning the regime, but are only expected to get worse under Duque’s hawkish foreign policy platform. During his presidential campaign, Duque campaigned as the anti-Maduro candidate, warning voters of the socialist nature of Venezuela’s economic and humanitarian crisis in comparison to his hard-left opponent Gustavo Petro.