BOGOTA – Colombia’s President Iván Duque accused Venezuela’s leftist incumbent Nicolás Maduro on Thursday of seeking to buy medium and long-range missiles from his Middle-East partner Iran as the Latin American nation exposes itself to the risk of tighter sanctions from Washington.
Four tankers holding an estimated cargo of 1.1 million barrels of gasoline from Iran were already seized by the US government last month.
Duque also said that Venezuela is handing over weapons made in Russia and Belarus to guerillas and other paramilitary groups in his country.
“There is information from international intelligence bodies that work with us which shows there is interest from the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro in acquiring some medium and long-range missiles through Iran,” Duque said.
“The information is that (the missiles) still haven’t arrived, but there has been contact especially under instructions from (Venezuela Defense Minister Vladimir) Padrino,” he added.
After Duque’s press conference, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said that “Colombia has denounced that the Maduro regime is a latent threat to peace, democracy, and the stability of Colombia and the entire region.”
Furthermore, an unnamed intelligence source told Colombian daily El Tiempo that “that missiles transaction is real and has been circulating for a couple of months.” The source added that Iran found another Washington-sanctioned country to sell its missiles to in defiance of the US.
Another unnamed source – this time from Venezuela – told El Tiempo that a woman from the Venezuelan army, who was previously married to a Cuban citizen, is the person in charge of carrying out the negotiations with the missiles. It is speculated that La Orchila and Margarita islands in Venezuela would be used as platforms for these weapons.
As expected, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza rejected the accusations.
“In Colombia the massacres, unleashed violence, uncontrollable drug trafficking do not stop,” he wrote on Twitter. “@IvanDuque returns to infamies and anti-Venezuelan fiction to distract public opinion.”
Maduro has recently said regarding his regime’s relationship with Iran that “Venezuela and Iran have the right to trade and exchange freely all the products we want. Rouhani, here we are for whatever you want, brother.”