JPEG - 18.5 kb

I have the honour to write to you with reference to the accusations made against the Republic of Colombia by the illegitimate regime of Nicolás Maduro, in particular with regard to the alleged events of 3 and 4 May 2020.

I would like to begin by thanking all members of the Security Council for their strong and unanimous support for efforts to consolidate peace and security in Colombia through the special political mission and its coordinated work with the country team. Colombia remains committed to implementing its “peace with legality” policy, through which it is fulfilling its commitments under its 2016 agreement with the former guerrilla group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC).

Colombia respects international law and is a strong supporter of the use of multilateralism and dialogue to resolve differences. It therefore recognizes the importance of the work of the United Nations, and of the Security Council in particular.

Like more than 50 other States and multilateral organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Development Bank and the Inter-American Investment Corporation, Colombia has been denouncing the dictatorial and illegitimate regime of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela for more than a year, recognizes the interim Government of President Juan Guaidó and supports it in its efforts to restore democracy in the country. In that regard, I wish to make it clear that the present letter is not a reply to the one sent by the representative of the Maduro regime, the sole purpose of which was to direct attention away from the serious situation in Venezuela and set out a series of accusations against Colombia, its Government and even its President. That letter contained misleading rhetoric commonly used by the members of the regime and failed to provide any credible evidence to support the allegations made.

In order to ensure that the context of the regime’s allegations are fully understood and assure the Council of the unwavering commitment of Colombia to respecting international law and diplomatic processes, it is necessary to review the history of the bilateral relations between the sister nations of Colombia and Venezuela in recent years.

Since the early years of our republics, the relations between Colombia and Venezuela have been a strategic matter. Historical, cultural and neighbourly ties guided our foreign policies for many years.

Colombia and Venezuela share a long history as well as a 2,200 km border, which is said to be the liveliest border in the Americas. Consequently, in the 1990s the two countries established a number of binational mechanisms to address the challenges inherent to their relationship constructively, through direct dialogue. The binational agenda covered a wide range of matters of common interest.

Each country became the second most important trading partner of the other. By 2008, the value of trade between the two countries exceeded $8 billion and was directly responsible for more than 500,000 jobs, which had a significant impact on the development of both economies. The value of trade between the two countries fell following the imposition of restrictions on Colombia, changes in Venezuela and alterations in Venezuelan foreign policy, in particular the formal withdrawal of Venezuela from the Andean Community in April 2006. In 2019 it stood at $241 million, and many jobs had been lost as a result of the decline, according to the Venezuelan-Colombian Chamber of Economic Integration.

There was an excellent atmosphere of cooperation between the two countries when Hugo Chávez was elected in 1998, during the term of Andrés Pastrana as President of Colombia (1998–2002). However, from that point, contradictions began to be seen in the approach of Venezuela to its relations with Colombia.

The political transition in Venezuela that began when Hugo Chávez took office led to the postponement of work on crucial matters on the bilateral agenda and negatively affected the use of the institutional channels in place. During their first two years in office, Hugo Chávez and his Minister for Foreign Affairs, José Vicente Rangel, frequently commented on the peace process under way in Colombia with the former guerrilla group FARC. The Government of Colombia emphatically stated that such comments amounted to meddling and interference in the internal affairs of the country.

On 9 February 1999, just a few days after taking office, Chávez said that his Government was “neutral” with regard to the internal conflict in Colombia, adding that “only that way, by being truly neutral, like a boxing referee, can we be in a moral position to intercede in the conflict.” On 15 February 1999 he reiterated this “neutral” position and said: “We do not want to interfere in the internal war in Colombia, or rather, we do want to interfere, but only in order to bring about peace.”

In March 1999, a meeting between Hugo Chávez and President Andrés Pastrana was suspended owing to comments by Chávez about the belligerent status of Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP). In a statement to the media, Chávez implied that FARC-EP controlled part of the territory of Colombia and that the Government of Colombia itself had granted belligerent and political status to the internal conflict, which was untrue.

The Government of Colombia vigorously rejected the position adopted by the Government of Venezuela and recalled that, pursuant to common article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the application of the provisions concerning conflicts not of an international character does not affect the legal status of the parties to the conflict. In spite of these tensions, diplomatic efforts resulted in a presidential meeting held in Ureña in May 1999. A joint declaration issued on that occasion reiterated the commitment of both Governments to maintain cordial relations and take a comprehensive approach to their relations.

Nevertheless, events made it clear that, despite the attempts to achieve rapprochement, tensions were far from over. On 22 July 1999, three aircraft belonging to the Venezuelan air force violated Colombian air space over Vetas de Oriente, flying 15 km into Colombian territory. In the same month, Venezuela violated the trading regulations of the Andean Community by ordering that goods be trans-shipped at the border. Over the course of the next four years, Venezuela unilaterally imposed restrictions that had an impact on the trade integration that had been achieved up to that point.

In addition to these border and trade incidents, in August 1999 Hugo Chávez announced that he intended to meet with Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela. Mr. Rangel, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, justified this on the grounds that it was necessary to “meet with those who held the power”. In response, on 31 August 1999 Colombia sent Hugo Chávez a note setting out the parameters of what it expected of the Venezuelan Government in order for good relations between the two countries to be maintained. No response was received.

Later, in October 1999, the Embassy and Consulate of Colombia in Caracas were attacked. Shots were fired, and explosive devices were detonated. The Government of Venezuela disregarded the request of the Government of Colombia for security measures at its diplomatic premises to be increased. On 4 May 2000, following several months of tensions, Hugo Chávez and President Pastrana signed the Santa Marta Commitment, which set out principles and actions for the advancement of the binational agenda.

However, the dialogue was again affected by statements by high-level Venezuelan officials, this time about the implications of Plan Colombia, which was designed to combat drug trafficking and strengthen the institutions of Colombia, among other things. The situation was compounded by new and frequent border incidents provoked by Venezuela; the suspension of bilateral mechanisms; and Venezuelan cooperation with illegal organized armed groups operating in Colombia.

On 21 and 22 November 2000, Olga Marín and Hernán Ramírez, two well known spokespersons for the former guerrilla group FARC, attended an international symposium on Plan Colombia and its impact in Latin America at the headquarters of the legislative branch in Caracas. The Venezuelan authorities had helped them travel to the country. As a result, on 24 November 2000 the Ambassador of Colombia to Venezuela was recalled for consultations. Some days later, Colombia issued an official statement expressing the Government’s dissatisfaction and detailing the factors that had led to the current state of relations between the two countries. During this time, violations of Colombian sovereignty at its border with Venezuela continued.

The Presidents of Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela held a meeting on 30 November 2000, when Mexican President Vicente Fox was inaugurated. At that difficult meeting, the Presidents agreed to reactivate the Group of Three, an integration mechanism linking the three countries. During the discussions, Hugo Chávez informed President Pastrana that FARC had asked him to sell it weapons but that he had not agreed to do so. This was evidence of his close ties to FARC.

Once again, Colombia made use of diplomatic communications to set out the parameters for the relations between the two countries. However, it received no reply to its letter of 5 December 2000. In February 2001, another incident occurred: deportation proceedings concerning José María Ballestas, the head of command of the terrorist group Ejército de Liberación Nacional, who had participated in the hijacking of a commercial Avianca flight in 1999 and was in Venezuelan territory, were halted. He was extradited to Colombia a few months later, following significant legal and diplomatic efforts.

In March 2001, the Government of Venezuela unexpectedly announced that it was carrying out military manoeuvres in Castilletes, in what it referred to as Operation Maremoto I. Castilletes is one of the most sensitive locations on the Colombia-Venezuela border, as it is the starting point for the pending delimitation of the countries’ respective marine and submarine areas in the Gulf of Coquivacoa. Conducting such manoeuvres without notice and prior coordination between the two Governments was seen as an unfriendly act. Fortunately, there were no serious consequences, but the incident highlighted the systematic harassment practiced by the Government of Hugo Chávez and the deterioration in relations between the two countries, which were at a historic low.

Colombia has been at the forefront of the defence of democratic values in the Americas since the adoption of the OAS Charter at the Ninth International Conference of American States in Bogotá in 1948. One of the most significant developments in recent decades was the unanimous signing of the Inter-American Democratic Charter in Lima on 11 September 2001. The draft was discussed at the OAS General Assembly in San José, Costa Rica from 3 to 5 June 2001. At that time, Venezuela and a number of other Caribbean countries opposed its adoption. Colombia, as Chair of the relevant working group, ensured that this groundbreaking instrument on the preservation and defence of democracy in the region was approved at the special session of the General Assembly in Lima. Since then, the Charter has been a crucial document providing essential guidance on the defence of democracy in the region.

Following a period of relative calm promoted by a meeting between high-level delegations of the two countries, tensions were revived again in 2002. The reasons for this included the emergence of evidence of contact between the Government of Venezuela and the former guerrilla group FARC, and a border incident in which the Colombian military was targeted in an incursion by guerrillas from Venezuelan territory.

Colombia has always taken a good-neighbourly approach to its border relations and has been a significant player in the search for solutions to the difficulties that naturally arise along such a long and active border. Its foreign policy has consistently respected international law and the principle of the non-use of force. It has continued to act in such a way since Hugo Chávez’s accession to power.

Hugo Chávez governed Venezuela from 1999 until his death in 2013. It is common knowledge that during those years he organized a powerful paramilitary militia (the “colectivos”), with a view to stamping out any rebellion against the so called Bolivarian Revolution.

Corruption, nepotism and crime became endemic in the country during his lengthy time in office. In addition to providing financial support to sympathetic leaders in various countries in the region, he also harboured and protected organized armed groups of Colombian origin, such as FARC and Ejército de Liberación Nacional.

Nicolás Maduro rose to power in this context. He inherited the Cártel de los Soles (Cartel of the Suns) from Hugo Chávez and Diosdado Cabello. Emulating Chávez, Maduro established the “Chavista militias” which, together with the colectivos, boast about how well equipped they are, in terms of weapons, to face an attack.

For more than 20 years, Chávez and then Maduro have based their propaganda campaigns on repeated allegations of conspiracies against the regime, assassination attempts (which always fail) and attacks on Venezuelan sovereignty (which are invariably suppressed).

During the two terms of President Álvaro Uribe (2002–2010), there was significant distancing between the two countries. Although they had very different views on institutions and economic development, Colombia maintained its deep, long-standing respect for its neighbours, within a context of plurality, democracy and respect for the principles and norms of international law. The tensions with Venezuela were primarily the result of Hugo Chavez’s interest in interfering in the internal affairs of Colombia.

This led to a period during which meetings of Heads of State and Ministers for Foreign Affairs, the work of binational commissions and trade were disrupted. This resulted in “microphone diplomacy”, ambassadors in Bogotá and Caracas being recalled for consultations, and even the regrettable expulsion of Colombian diplomatic staff from Venezuela.

One of the most significant events of this period was the complaint made by Colombia at the special meeting of the OAS Permanent Council on 22 July 2010. At the meeting, Colombia presented documented evidence that high-ranking leaders of the former guerrilla group FARC and Ejército de Liberación Nacional were residing in Venezuela. The evidence implicated officials close to Chávez.

On that occasion, the Permanent Representative of Colombia to OAS shared the coordinates of the locations in Venezuelan territory where FARC-EP had established guerrilla camps, as well as photographs, videos and witness statements.

At the meeting, Colombia formally requested that the Government of Venezuela comply with its national and international obligations, seek out and combat such groups – which the Permanent Representative said were responsible for kidnappings, murders, the recruitment of minors and the laying of anti-personnel mines – and ensure that their members were prosecuted. Colombia further requested that a verification commission comprising representatives of all OAS member States be established to visit the locations in question. It also offered to provide full judicial support to Venezuela, and any other countries that needed it, for the purposes of dealing with the criminal groups in question.

The Permanent Representative of Colombia to OAS concluded the meeting by reiterating the shared objectives of combating drug trafficking and terrorism, ensuring the peaceful coexistence of peoples and promoting democracy, saying: “I call upon you not to forget that there has been peace among the countries of our region for a long time. That is something that we all wish to protect and will all work to preserve.”

This OAS meeting made it clear to member States and the international community that Venezuela was consistently violating the obligations set out in United Nations conventions, Security Council resolutions and the Inter-American Convention against Terrorism and the related resolutions.

The Government of President Uribe was also subject to constant aggression and false accusations from Venezuela. Hugo Chávez accused the Colombian intelligence authorities of “fabricating conspiracies against Venezuela”. He repeatedly accused the Head of State of wanting to have him assassinated, plotting a war against him, and being manipulative and telling lies.

In February 2008, Chávez went so far as to state that Venezuela bordered FARC. “The Colombian insurgent forces have another State, which has laws that they apply and enforce,” he said. “This is a reality that can no longer be ignored.” Such statements, which were part of a narrative deliberately constructed by Venezuela in an effort to undermine the institutions of Colombia, were unacceptable to the Colombian Government.

The difficulties and provocations did not stop during the two terms of President Juan Manuel Santos (2010–2018), despite efforts to normalize the situation and reach a mutual understanding. Two weeks before the inauguration of Juan Manuel Santos, the incoming Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia began making overtures to her Venezuelan counterpart with a view to re-establishing relations. That process was supported by the then Secretary-General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Néstor Kirchner.

On 10 August 2010, three days after his inauguration, President Santos met with Hugo Chávez in Santa Marta in order to re-establish relations between the two countries. They agreed on a road map that envisaged the establishment of six working groups, on trade, security, transport, energy, borders and social affairs.

However, throughout this period Colombia continued to be subject to constant aggression and false accusations. The Venezuelan regime claimed that Colombia was “the source of all its evils”. In 2015, as part of the so-called “People’s Liberation Operations”, Venezuela expelled more than 22,000 Colombians living in the border region and destroyed their homes. This displaced a huge number of people and was clearly a violation of international law.

Later, in December 2016, Venezuela accused President Santos of disrupting the peace in South America by promoting military cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In March 2017, a complicated situation arose as a result of an illegal incursion into Colombian territory by Venezuelan troops, in what was clearly a hostile act. President Santos requested the immediate withdrawal of the Venezuelan troops from Colombian territory and called for dialogue to be maintained through the diplomatic channel until the situation was normalized. However, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela claimed that the situation had been caused by the daily patrol carried out by Venezuelan authorities in Venezuelan territory bordering Colombia, saying: “The National Bolivarian Armed Forces continuously engage in border surveillance, security and protection activities in order to combat the serious threats to peace and stability in Venezuela posed by Colombian paramilitarism, criminal gangs, transnational crime and, in particular, drug trafficking and the smuggling of goods out of the country.”

In May 2017, Nicolás Maduro announced the establishment of a Constituent Assembly as a de facto replacement for the legitimately elected National Assembly, thereby breaking once again the rules of democracy and the institutions of Venezuela and increasing pressure on the opposition. President Santos rejected this step, stating the following: “When he unilaterally decided to elect a Constituent Assembly, delegitimizing the National Assembly and thereby beginning to amass all the powers for himself, was when the destruction Venezuelan democracy began and when I began to separate myself from Venezuela as a nation with which it was possible to have good relations.” Maduro described the Colombian President’s condemnation of the violation of civil and political rights in Venezuela as a “stab in the back” and accused him of being part of a campaign of “systematic aggression”.

A few days before President Santos left office, Nicolás Maduro accused him of being behind an explosives attack against him, saying: “I have no doubts. It is the murderous rage of the Colombian oligarchy. And I am sure that all the evidence will surface. But the initial findings of the investigation point to Bogotá.”

The Government of President Duque, who took office in August 2018, has also experienced constant groundless attacks and accusations by the Maduro regime.

Since January 2019, Colombia has made it very clear that – like other countries committed to democracy and the rule of law that have decided not to recognize the fraudulent usurpation of political power in Venezuela – it recognizes only interim President Juan Guaidó, who was elected by the National Assembly, and that all diplomatic actions aimed at contributing to a democratic and peaceful transition in Venezuela will be carried out with full adherence to the norms and principles of international law.

The current situation in Venezuela and its future evolution constitute one of the main concerns of Colombian foreign policy. The re-establishment of the democratic order in Venezuela is crucial for Colombia and for the region.

Colombia recognizes the irreplaceable leading role of Venezuelan citizens in the process of re-establishing democracy and constitutional order. It therefore supports the road map set out by the National Assembly and interim President Juan Guaidó for ending the usurpation, establishing an emergency Government and holding free, fair, transparent and credible elections, with the participation of all democratic political forces that will make it possible to rebuild the economy. The “diplomacy for democracy” approach, as promoted by Colombia in the context of the Lima Group, has encouraged progress towards the re-establishment of democracy in Venezuela.

The immense migratory flow from Venezuela resulting from the breakdown of democratic order and the rapid deterioration of the economic and humanitarian situation in the country poses enormous challenges for Latin America, and in particular for Colombia, which is the main country of destination for not only Venezuelan refugees and migrants but also returning Colombian nationals.

This is an unprecedented situation in the region, and it has an undeniable humanitarian dimension. The response must be characterized by solidarity and responsibility. As it has stated in various international forums, Colombia has decided to face this challenge head-on at the national, regional and multilateral levels and is ready to turn it into an opportunity.

In the light of recent events such as the levelling by Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro of false accusations concerning the supposed participation of Colombia in alleged actions against Venezuela, we must reiterate the statement issued by our Minister for Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the Government of Colombia, on 7 May 2020: “We call the attention of the international community to the insistence of the regime on implicating the Colombian authorities in actions that violate international law. Colombia is a country that respects international law and will never support activities that violate it.”

The accusations of the regime are not new and, as has been seen, form part of a strategy that has clearly been designed and coordinated by the power structure established by Chávez and Maduro in order to legitimize itself, create distractions and discredit those who oppose it.

Over the past two decades, Venezuela has been driven into a colossal multidimensional crisis. The country has gone from being one of the most prosperous nations in Latin America to being in a state of profound economic, social, political and institutional deterioration.

Academics from prestigious universities and think tanks around the world consider the country to be practically a failed State. The latest Fragile States Index (2019), published by Foreign Policy magazine and Fund for Peace, ranks it 32nd, places it in the “high warning” category and classifies it as one of the most fragile States in the world.

This historic decline has been caused by those who are in control of the security forces in Venezuela, and who, through their policies, have devastated and impoverished a hard-working and freedom-loving people. In the case of Venezuela, there is no outside enemy or distractor to blame for what its citizens are suffering.

Who could have imagined that a country with some of the largest oil, gas and mineral reserves in the world would be thrown into poverty, with no food, no electricity, and no fuel for domestic consumption? Despite the lack of transparency and the impossibility of accessing official information, the following data provide an insight into the current situation in Venezuela.

According to the International Monetary Fund, Venezuela lost two thirds, or 65 per cent, of its wealth between 2014 and 2019. By 2019, its worth had fallen to 35 per cent of its former amount. The country has experienced steady six-digit hyperinflation, and the inflation rate was 9,585 per cent in 2019 according to the Central Bank of Venezuela. The mismanagement of the State-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A., and a lack of investment have led to a drastic reduction in oil production, down from 3 million barrels per day in 1999 to 622,000 barrels per day on average in April 2020. The World Bank estimates that the foreign debt of Venezuela has increased by 213 per cent in the past 20 years, to more than $154 billion. Added to this are the breakdown of public services and the collapse of the population’s purchasing power.

In terms of social development, Venezuela is experiencing a humanitarian crisis. A total of 94 per cent of the population does not have sufficient income to cover their basic needs. According to the National Survey of Living Conditions, conducted by Universidad Central de Venezuela, Universidad Católica Andrés Bello and Universidad Simón Bolívar, multidimensional poverty has increased by 10 percentage points over the past three years, reaching half of all households (51 per cent) in 2018. Life expectancy has fallen by 3.5 years. The monthly minimum wage is equivalent to $2.33 and unemployment stands at 35 per cent, according to the International Monetary Fund. Venezuelans face immense challenges in obtaining food, water, medicines and medical supplies, and suffer the impact of electricity shortages and poor hospital infrastructure.

In 2003, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in its report on the human rights situation in Venezuela, identified the “clear weakness in the fundamental pillars that must support the rule of law in a democratic system, consistent with the American Convention on Human Rights and other international instruments”. It also observed “worrisome signs of institutional weakness, including the failure to give full application to the new Constitution, the perception that the branches of government lack independence, the growing concentration of power in the national executive, the impunity in which certain armed civilian groups and para police units operate, the Government’s tendency to confrontation and disparagement of the political opposition, the constant attacks on journalists and the media, the tendency to militarize the public administration through the increasingly prominent role of the armed forces, the growing radicalization of political postures in the context of popular discontent over unmet social demands, and disputes relating to the exercise of trade union rights”.

In its 2009 report entitled “Democracy and human rights in Venezuela”, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights emphasized the absence of due separation and independence between the branches of government in Venezuela and the use of the State’s punitive power to intimidate or punish people on account of their political views. It also warned that “mechanisms have been created in Venezuela that restrict the possibilities of candidates opposed to the government for securing access to power” and that there was a “troubling trend of punishments, intimidation and attacks on individuals in reprisal for expressing their dissent with official policy”, noting with concern that “in some extreme cases, criminal proceedings have been brought against dissidents, accusing them of common crimes in order to deny them their freedom on account of their political positions”.

In 2017, the Commission issued a new report, entitled “Democratic Institutions, the Rule of Law and Human Rights in Venezuela”, in which it related the marked deterioration of the human rights situation to the grave political, economic and social crisis with which the country has been grappling since 2015. When it became evident that a humanitarian crisis of significant proportions was unfolding, the Commission decided to include Venezuela in its annual report. In the document, the Commission noted the disregard, “from an institutional standpoint”, of the principle of separation of powers and the use of punitive power to take peaceful protesters to court and prosecute political dissidents on criminal charges.

Also in 2017, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report entitled “Human rights violations and abuses in the context of protests in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela from 1 April to 31 July 2017”. In the report, the Office documented the mounting levels of repression of political dissent by the regime’s security forces, and the subjection of detainees, including children, to various forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including beatings, electric shocks, suffocation and threats of sexual violence. Cases of civilians brought before the military justice system and the violation of their due process rights were also documented.

In its 2018 report entitled “Human rights violations in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: a downward spiral with no end in sight”, the Office concluded that “human rights violations committed during demonstrations form part of a wider pattern of repression against political dissidents and anyone perceived as opposed, or posing a threat, to the Government”. It also noted that the country was already suffering from “a dramatic health crisis and an outright collapse of the Venezuelan health care system, which have resulted in massive violations of the right to health” and that “the combination of food unavailability and inaccessibility has forced Venezuelan families to change their eating habits and to implement new subsistence strategies”.

The anti-democratic trend led the Maduro-dominated electoral authority to call early and fraudulent elections, held on 20 May 2018, with a view to securing a new term in power for Maduro from January 2019 – seven months later – despite strong condemnation by the international community.

The Lima Group declared that it did not recognize the legitimacy of the electoral process, or the tainted re-election of Maduro, which did not meet international standards for a democratic, free, fair and transparent process. Its member countries agreed to reduce the level of their diplomatic relations with Venezuela. They also reiterated their concern over the deepening political, economic, social and humanitarian crisis, which has had a negative impact on life in that country, as reflected in the mass migration of Venezuelans, the loss of democratic institutions, the breakdown of the rule of law and the lack of political guarantees and freedoms for citizens.

Days later, at a meeting of the OAS Permanent Council, the Lima Group countries and the United States denounced the sham election held in Venezuela and reiterated their refusal to recognize the re-election of Nicolás Maduro.

The European Union, through its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, denounced the irregularities in the presidential elections and affirmed that the twenty-eight States members would “consider the adoption of adequate measures”, noting that “presidential and regional polls went ahead without a national agreement on an electoral calendar and without complying with the minimum international standards for a credible process, not respecting political pluralism, democracy, transparency and rule of law”.

It is clear that the process of deterioration of the fundamental values of democracy and the integrity of the rule of law began during Hugo Chávez’s first term in office and has continued to gain momentum, leading Venezuela to become a failed State incapable of preserving the lives of its citizens. While the regime of Nicolás Maduro maintains a rhetoric that exalts the values of peace and well-being, it deprives the country’s citizens of the goods and services that are essential to their survival. The repression and restriction of all freedoms is compounded by the international community’s inability to verify conditions on the ground.

On 4 July 2019, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a new report on the human rights situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in which she stated that she had observed “patterns of violations that directly and indirectly affect all human rights: civil, political, economic, social and cultural”; confirmed that there were “violations of the right to food, including the State’s obligation to ensure that the population is free from hunger”; and affirmed that “violations of the right to health are the result of the [regime’s] failure to fulfil its core obligations, which are non-derogable even for economic reasons”.

In its preliminary observations and recommendations document issued on 8 May 2020, following its visit to monitor the human rights situation in Venezuela from Colombian territory, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights stated that the deepening of the political and social crisis in the country, in a context of general repression, had resulted in the absence of the rule of law in Venezuela.

Since its establishment on 8 August 2017, the Lima Group, whose members include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucia and Venezuela, has worked persistently for the re-establishment of democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela, as the only means of alleviating the multidimensional crisis suffered by the citizens of that country.

As at May 2020, the Lima Group had met 18 times. In its statements, it has reiterated its support for a political, peaceful, democratic and Venezuelan-led solution to the serious crisis in Venezuela. The States members of the Group have reiterated that the transition must take place under the terms of the Venezuelan Constitution and the rules of the country’s institutions, without interference from other countries, and much less through violence. Hence, in its most recent communiqué, the Group supported the establishment of an emergency Government, as proposed by President Guaidó, in strict adherence to the provisions set out in the Constitution of Venezuela.

The Lima Group has also drawn attention to the collusion of the Maduro regime with various types of criminal actors, including the Colombian-born terrorist group Ejército de Liberación Nacional, and has repeatedly condemned such complicity.

Nicolás Maduro leads a corrupt and criminal regime that threatens the stability and security of the region. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2019, Venezuela is the most corrupt country in Latin America and the fifth most corrupt in the world. Transparencia Venezuela considers that the country has shifted from having a problem of administrative corruption and State capture to suffering from “grand corruption”, which is understood to be corruption that has penetrated the highest levels of leadership of the security forces, generating serious abuse of power and distorting the functions of government.

This situation is severely compounded by the regime’s collusion with and support for organized armed groups that profit from criminal income.

On 26 March 2020, United States Attorney General William P. Barr, in a joint press conference, announced that Nicolás Maduro and 14 current and former officials, including three former high-ranking officials of his regime, would be charged with narco-terrorism, corruption, drug trafficking and other criminal charges in several criminal cases. Two members of the former guerrilla group FARC who participated in the negotiations on and signed the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace in November 2016 were also charged.

In the words of the United States Attorney General: “The Venezuelan regime, once led by Nicolás Maduro Moros, remains plagued by criminality and corruption. For more than 20 years, Maduro and a number of high-ranking colleagues allegedly conspired with the FARC, causing tons of cocaine to enter and devastate American communities.”

According to the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration: “These indictments expose the devastating systemic corruption at the highest levels of Nicolás Maduro’s regime. These officials repeatedly and knowingly betrayed the people of Venezuela, conspiring, for personal gain, with drug traffickers and designated foreign terrorist organizations like the FARC.”

On the same day, an indictment containing charges against Maduro and several of his collaborators, including members of the former guerrilla organization FARC, was unsealed in the Southern District of New York. This case concerns crimes committed since 1999 by the above-mentioned individuals, as leaders and managers of the Cártel de Los Soles, not only to enrich themselves and enhance their power, but also to “flood” the United States with cocaine and inflict the drug’s harmful effects on the population.

According to the evidence gathered, during the peace negotiations conducted by FARC and the Government of then President Andrés Pastrana, FARC members agreed with the leaders of the Cártel de Los Soles to relocate some of their operations to Venezuela, under the protection of the cartel. Thereafter, they jointly dispatched cocaine from Venezuela to the United States via trans-shipment points in the Caribbean and Central America. The United States Department of State estimates that 250 or more tons of cocaine were transiting Venezuela per year, by sea and by air, by 2004.

In his role as a leader of the Cártel de Los Soles, Maduro negotiated multi-ton shipments of FARC-produced cocaine; directed the Cártel de Los Soles to provide military-grade weapons to FARC; coordinated with other countries to facilitate large-scale drug trafficking; and solicited assistance from FARC leadership in training a militia group that functioned as a paramilitary unit of the Cártel de Los Soles.

Vladimir Padrino is accused of, among other crimes, conspiring with others between 2014 and 2019 to distribute cocaine on board aircraft registered in the United States. As General in charge of drug interdiction he ordered or authorized the military to shoot down suspected trafficking aircraft or to force the aircraft to land, but on numerous occasions he allowed other aircraft, whose drug trafficking coordinators paid bribes to him, to transit Venezuelan airspace.

Maikel Moreno is accused of money-laundering and conspiracy to commit money-laundering in connection with the receipt or intended receipt of tens of millions of dollars and bribes to illegally fix dozens of civil and criminal cases in Venezuela.

There are increasing signs of links between the regime of Nicolás Maduro and the terrorist organization of Colombian origin Ejército de Liberación Nacional and other organized armed groups involved in illicit mining of gold and other minerals in the Orinoco Mining Arc, as well as of the growing presence of Hizbullah in Venezuela.

Organized armed groups of Colombian origin are the greatest threat to democratic stability and security in Colombia and the region, as they have become transnational organizations which carry out criminal and terrorist activities. That phenomenon, which is exacerbated by the permissiveness and support of regime members, could enable the organizations to grow exponentially if current conditions persist.

The presence and actions of Ejército de Liberación Nacional and other organized armed groups in Venezuela reflect a system of macrocriminality supported by the Maduro regime, which protects and grants freedom of operation to organizations classified as terrorist by the European Union and the United States.

In February 2019, International Crisis Group stated that “Venezuelan crime syndicates and Colombian guerrilla groups are creating new threats across southern Venezuela as they compete for control of the region’s valuable mineral resources. Tensions and violence have spiked in recent months, and could worsen in the midst of Venezuela’s presidential crisis.”

In March 2019, the foundation InSight Crime reported that Ejército de Liberación Nacional leaders were living in the state of Apure and using Venezuela as a base from which to coordinate their operations and remain out of reach of Colombian security forces. It indicated that “Venezuela’s current conditions have exacerbated a government crisis that has boiled over alongside rising crime rates and the penetration of organized crime into the highest levels of government. [Venezuela] has not only become a mafia state, but has also sought alliances with groups such as Ejército de Liberación Nacional in the midst of such institutional chaos.”

Aware of the threat that the Maduro regime poses to regional stability and security, the States parties to the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance agreed to activate the Treaty’s Organ of Consultation and to explore ways to protect countries in the region from threats to their integrity.

Accordingly, at a meeting of consultation held on 23 September 2019, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the States parties, serving as the Treaty’s Organ of Consultation, adopted resolution 01/19, in which they stated that “criminal activities, associated with the humanitarian crisis generated by the deterioration of the political, economic and social situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, represent a threat to the maintenance of the peace and security of the continent, under the terms of article 6 of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance”.

The Organ of Consultation held a second meeting in December 2019, and technical teams have continued to fulfil the commitment of States parties to increase information exchange and judicial and police cooperation in order to investigate and punish those responsible for crimes, and to freeze their assets located in the territories of the States parties.

The Government of Colombia seeks to bring about a return to democracy in Venezuela within the framework of international legal institutions and in strict compliance with international law. To that end, it has made every political and diplomatic effort within its power, and has delivered statements in various forums on the abuses and outrages committed by the regime of Nicolás Maduro against the people of Venezuela.

None of the actions taken by the State of Colombia have been carried out in a covert or hidden manner. On the contrary, the President of Colombia has been vocal in his rejection of the illegitimacy of the regime of Nicolás Maduro, and in his condemnation of its violent repression against its own people.

In his address to the General Assembly in September 2019, President Duque stated the following:

The Venezuelan dictatorship is one more link in the chain of transnational terrorism. Its corrupt agents are servants of the drug cartels; its pawns are henchmen of the mafia, and foment violence in Colombia; they protect murderers and child rapists, and those who ignore these atrocities are accomplices of the dictatorship.

My Government has strong and convincing evidence that corroborates the dictatorship’s support for criminal groups and narcoterrorists that operate in Venezuela in order to attack Colombia.

In May 2017, when he was a senator of the Republic of Colombia, Iván Duque filed a complaint against Nicolás Maduro concerning the commission of crimes under international law and other actions and omissions, in accordance with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The complaint filed by Senator Duque and a significant number of members of the Congress of the Republic of Colombia and of the National Congress of Chile details crimes that Mr. Maduro Moros is accused of committing against Venezuelan citizens, specifically murder, forced displacement, imprisonment and other deprivation of physical liberty in violation of international law, persecution on political grounds, genocide and apartheid.

On 30 May 2018, the Secretary-General of OAS sent a communication to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in which he demonstrated that there is no access to impartial justice in Venezuela, and that the public authorities are not independent. He also referred to the systematic, tactical and strategic use of murder, imprisonment, torture and sexual violence to terrorize Venezuelan citizens.

In accordance with the cooperation arrangement between OAS and the International Criminal Court signed in April 2011, the Secretary-General provided relevant data obtained from individual testimonies, non-governmental organizations and multilateral bodies. The report submitted by the Secretary-General to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is supported by a panel of international experts, which considers that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the proof required under article 53 of the Rome Statute was established at least as at 12 February 2014.

Similarly, on 25 September 2018, the Heads of State of Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru signed a communication addressed to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in which they formally requested the initiation of an investigation into the commission of crimes against humanity under the regime of Nicolás Maduro.

Colombia has never been an aggressor country. On the contrary, it has dedicated its efforts to strengthening its institutions, building its capacities to ensure stability and security, and improving the quality of life of its citizens. My country has historically recognized the importance of relations with Venezuela and has sought the best possible neighbourly relations, in view of the indisputable fact that we are sister nations.

The State policy of Colombia, which focuses on integration, border development and good neighbourliness, contrasts with the deliberate and systematic policy of continuous support for terrorism and complicity in organized crime and drug trafficking maintained by Venezuela since the arrival of Hugo Chávez, a policy which has affected the national security of Colombia and jeopardized stability in the region.

In the communication sent by the representative of the regime to the Security Council and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, reference is made to events which occurred in the context of a humanitarian operation called for, and consequently authorized by, the National Assembly of Venezuela and its President, Juan Guaidó.

This operation, carried out in conjunction with Brazil, Chile, Curaçao, Paraguay, Puerto Rico and the United States, had no other purpose than to provide citizens with urgently needed food and medicine.

Owing to the ease of transit between the two countries across international bridges located in the department of Norte de Santander, Colombia allowed its territory to be used as a humanitarian channel, and the national Government determined that its responsibility would be to ensure that the aid was delivered to the volunteers and delegates of the National Assembly, and to facilitate its transport to the international bridges.

Unfortunately, the armed forces of the Venezuelan regime and irregular armed groups blocked the international bridges with containers and prevented delivery of the aid. Hundreds of media outlets present in the city of Cúcuta, whose photographic and audiovisual material has been broadly disseminated, together with recorded footage from the security cameras located on the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge, confirm what occurred.

Military personnel from the illegitimate regime of Maduro positioned themselves near the middle of the Simón Bolívar International Bridge, where intense confrontations took place with the delegates who were trying to deliver the aid to Venezuela.

The tension and confrontations gradually escalated, resulting in the injury of nearly 700 people. In its report, the OAS observation group stated: “Immediately, the Bolivarian National Guard fired tear gas at the convoy, which spread to most of the people on the Colombian side, causing a rush and a temporary retreat. (…) Simultaneously, there were detonations (stun grenades and pellets) from the Venezuelan side.”

Owing to the turmoil of the moment and an aversion to belonging to an institution tainted by corruption and human rights violations against the population, approximately 1,400 uniformed personnel left the ranks of the Venezuelan law enforcement authorities and were received by the Colombian authorities, who provided accommodation and food for them and approximately 400 family members in the following months.

The Government of Colombia established a protocol to determine the conditions under which the uniformed personnel would remain in Colombia, in order to protect them and prevent the formation of military groups among them. The objective of Colombia has always been to avoid the outbreak of security incidents in its territory.

In May 2019, that protocol for assisting former members of the Venezuelan armed forces and police was formalized through a memorandum of understanding signed with the representative in Colombia of interim President Juan Guaidó. Under the agreement, benefits were granted to former military personnel, including access to special residence permits, basic health care and places in the education system for their children. Colombia reiterated that these persons may not perform military, police or security and defence functions; they are also prohibited from carrying weapons and wearing uniforms.

As a result of these events, Maduro ordered the unilateral severance of diplomatic and consular relations with Colombia, and gave Colombian officials 24 hours to leave Venezuela. Relations remain severed to this day.

The regime’s account of an alleged operation of aggression conducted under the pretext of humanitarian aid delivery is untrue, misrepresents the facts and disregards the efforts made to address the critical needs of Venezuelan citizens. These events were discussed by the Security Council in February 2019, at which time Colombia transmitted to the Council specific information thereon.

According to the international platform Response for Venezuelans (R4V), led by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration, some 5,093,987 Venezuelan citizens have been forced to leave their country since 2016. Thirty-six per cent of them, or 1,825,687, reside in Colombia.

This migration flow, classified as the second largest in the world after the Syrian exodus, has been received in Colombia with generosity and fraternity, and has required enormous financial and institutional effort. At the specific instructions of President Iván Duque, borders remained open until 13 March 2020, when it became necessary to close migrant crossing points owing to the epidemiological risk posed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Until then, about 35,000 people had been crossing the border daily to receive food, health care and basic goods.

Colombia has taken various measures to facilitate regularization of the migration status of Venezuelan citizens in its territory, provide them with access to health and education services, and enable them to be formally employed. In addition, in August 2019, by administrative decision, it granted nationality to children of Venezuelan parents born in Colombia who were at risk of statelessness. 43,540 children were born in Colombia to Venezuelan parents between January 2015 and February 2020 and have been granted nationality under this law.

Between 2017 and 2019, 749,444 medical services were provided to Venezuelan citizens by the Colombian public health system, including 141,575 to pregnant mothers. In addition, nearly 2 million free vaccine doses were provided, primarily to women and children between 0 and 5 years of age.

More than 200,000 children have received assistance of various forms under the family welfare system and 325,755 Venezuelan children and adolescents were enrolled in the Colombian education system as at March 2020.

The critical situation caused by the pandemic has required the intensification of efforts to provide health care and food to the most vulnerable citizens, including migrants and their host communities. The Government of Colombia is committed to continuing to support, in solidarity, those who have had to flee their country as a result of the repression carried out by Nicolás Maduro and his collaborators against their own people.

In the communication that it sent to the Security Council, the illegitimate Maduro regime irresponsibly accuses Colombia of condoning the commission of crimes in its territory that could affect Venezuela. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My country has fought a tireless battle against crime; it has strengthened its institutions and achieved significant economic and social progress since the beginning of the century. Drug trafficking and organized armed groups which exploit proceeds of crime are no longer a threat to democratic institutions and, although they cause violence and disproportionately affect the most vulnerable communities, they are being combated with the full force of the law.

The regime mentions the criminal group Los Rastrojos as part of an alleged plot to attack Nicolás Maduro and his collaborators. In fact, this group is classified by the Ministry of Defence of Colombia as an organized criminal group and, since 2016, law enforcement authorities have been specifically instructed to prosecute criminals belonging to the group and to combat their criminal activities.

Moreover, the national police are conducting investigations in coordination with the Office of the Public Prosecutor in order to counter Los Rastrojos. For more than two years, a campaign focused on prosecuting criminal groups operating in the region on the border with Venezuela has been under way and has resulted in the capture of 44 members of Los Rastrojos, including six leaders, as well as the neutralization of five members and the seizure of weapons.

The regime mentions Mr. John Jairo Durán Andrade as one of the persons with whom President Juan Guaidó engaged in “logistical coordination”. This criminal, who indeed belongs to the criminal group Los Rastrojos, has a Venezuelan identity document and has been in detention in Colombia since June 2019, as a result of two investigations conducted against him by the Office of the Public Prosecutor.

The criminal actor Elkin Javier López Torres, aliases “Doble Rueda” (Double Wheel) and “La Silla” (The Chair), who is a member of the organized criminal group Oficina del Caribe, or La Silla, was captured in December 2019 and is in detention. There are six investigations under way against him, led by the Office of the Public Prosecutor.

The regime also refers to the seizure of weapons in the context of events which occurred in the Colombian department of Magdalena on 23 March 2020 and indicates that the State of Colombia has refused to carry out judicial investigations into those events. This statement is false. As soon as the seizure occurred, thanks to the effective action of the traffic police, a warrant was issued for the arrest of the person transporting the weapons, two searches were conducted and the Office of the Public Prosecutor made the case a priority, assigning it to a special unit under its supervision. “Operation Gideon” was included in this ongoing investigation. Mr. Clíver Alcalá, who claimed responsibility for acquiring the weapons, voluntarily turned himself in to the United States authorities in order to cooperate with the judicial proceedings against him in that country.

Colombia is a country which respects democracy and freedoms, and will always uphold the Constitution and international law.

The multidimensional crisis in Venezuela, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, requires the full solidarity of the international community. My country will continue to support any efforts necessary to restore democracy and ensure the economic recovery of that sister nation.

In that regard, I should like to express very clearly the categorical rejection of any alleged link between my Government and actions contrary to international law. I wish to reiterate that the only aim of Colombia is to restore the rights of Venezuelan citizens. The Security Council may be assured that it is not my country which represents a threat to international peace and security. The Government of President Iván Duque will continue to dedicate its efforts to building peace in Colombia, consolidating and stabilizing its territory and restoring democracy in Venezuela.

I should be grateful if you would have the present letter circulated to the members of the Security Council for their information and related action and issued as a document of that body.