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I have the honour to write to you in order to refer to the communication addressed to the Security Council and the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 3 April from Mr. Jorge Arreaza, on behalf of the illegitimate regime of Nicolás Maduro, in which he raised facts related to the Republic of Colombia.

In this regard, and as has been reiterated on countless occasions, my country is respectful of international law and a firm defender of multilateralism and dialogue to settle differences. It therefore recognizes the importance of the work of the United Nations, and of the Security Council in particular.

In a document submitted to the Security Council on 20 May 2020 (S/2020/424), the Colombian State described, in a factual and detailed manner, the most relevant facts of the bilateral relationship between the two sister nations over the past two decades. This description is relevant again, one year later, as part of the context in which the note was sent to you by the Venezuelan regime. Indeed, the serious situation on the border, owing to the support provided by the Venezuelan regime to organized armed narco-terrorist groups, has long been repeatedly denounced by Colombia.

On 22 July 2010, the Ambassador of Colombia to the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) gave a detailed presentation on the presence of guerrillas from the Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (FARC) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) in Venezuelan territory. Information along the same lines was provided by the General Commander of the Armed Forces of Colombia in August 2011 and reaffirmed in September 2019 by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and by the President of the Republic during their participation in the United Nations General Assembly.

In his communication, Mr. Jorge Arreaza includes the word “war” eight times and recklessly accuses the President of the Republic of Colombia of trying “to export… his internal war”. He also refers to the “dismantling” of the Agreement signed between the national Government and the former FARC guerrillas in 2016 and irresponsibly states that “all countries bordering the Republic of Colombia are suffering from the spill-over of that country’s internal chaos”. With regard to this last statement, it should be noted that Colombia maintains strong cooperation ties in the area of security and justice with the democratic Governments of the region and has held regular meetings of its binational border commissions and binational cabinets with Brazil, Ecuador and Peru, in addition to constant exchanges with Panama. Within the framework of the Forum for the Progress of South America (PROSUR), a mechanism for political dialogue at the regional level to which Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia belong, there are also working groups on defence and security matters, which have been established to make joint progress on common threats.

The aggressiveness of the language and rhetoric used by the regime’s representatives is also evident in their public statements. Indeed, a few days ago, Diosdado Cabello, leader of the political party that supports Maduro’s dictatorship, expressed himself in the following manner, referring to Colombia: “... they are making a mistake, they are miscalculating, to believe that the war is going to be on Venezuelan territory; please keep on believing – keep on believing that is how things are going to be. We are going to defend our territory, but we will wage the war on your territory…”.

The evidence convincingly demonstrates that the Colombian State has never denied the challenges it has had to face in defence of the democratic institutions that have been threatened by the violence caused, since the last century, by criminal and terrorist organizations that have profited from drug trafficking and other illicit activities. In a transparent manner and in front of the world, my country has dedicated all its efforts to combating these groups, guaranteeing the rule of law and human rights, and making progress in providing better conditions of security and well-being for everyone living in Colombia.

In this context, more than 23 agencies of the United Nations system have been present in Colombia since 1996, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), whose mandate was renewed by the Government of President Duque in October 2019, and the Verification Mission established by the Security Council since 2017. The Mission to Support the Peace Process (MAPP) of OAS has also been in the country since 2004. OHCHR, the Verification Mission, MAPP and other agencies, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), also have offices in the territories near the border and observe, without any kind of limitation, the developments that occur there. This situation contrasts dramatically with the situation on Venezuelan territory, where the illegitimate regime has prevented access even to the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, whose mandate was authorized by the Human Rights Council, to which the regime itself belongs.

As you are aware, the Verification Mission in Colombia operates with a limited mandate from the Security Council and its results are discussed every 90 days in the Council. The Venezuelan regime’s request to invoke Article 34 of the Charter of the United Nations seeks to investigate alleged events occurring in Colombia, which the illegitimate regime is attempting, under a crude sophistry, to link to the implementation of the 2016 Agreement.

As former President Juan Manuel Santos acknowledged in recent days when he stated before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace that “... we never said that this country would be a paradise when peace was signed...”, the Agreement signed with the former FARC guerrillas was proposed in the midst of other violence, which was not going to disappear overnight. It is untrue, therefore, that the persistence of other forms of violence is due to non-compliance with any of the Agreement’s provisions. It should also be noted that consistent progress was made in 2020 in the actions and measures taken to strengthen the security of those former combatants who remain in the reintegration process, to investigate and prosecute crimes against them and to make progress in clarifying them. In addition, the actions of the law enforcement agencies against criminal structures in the territories have been substantially strengthened, which, among other things, has led to a 12 per cent decrease in the number of homicides of persons in the reintegration process (from 74 in 2019 to 65 in 2020).

Thirty months after enacting the Peace with Legality policy, what Colombia has achieved and will continue to achieve in the remainder of the Administration of President Duque will be to embody a message of optimism for the victims of violence, who are the focus of the State’s actions; for the more than 13,000 former combatants who remain within the law; for the nearly 100,000 families that are in the process of voluntary crop substitution; for those who live in the most vulnerable territories, where projects, opportunities and development are arriving; and, in general, for all compatriots, who can rest assured that we are working tirelessly to ensure that violence disappears once and for all.

As the Security Council has emphasized, we continue to make progress, despite glaring additional challenges such as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and its economic impact, migration from Venezuela and the global public enemy embodied by drug trafficking and other illegal activities.

The institutional, economic and social collapse in Venezuela has led that country into a deep multidimensional crisis that has severely impacted the population. This crisis is reflected in the shortage of medicines and food, the unprecedented increase in poverty, failures in the provision of public services, and widespread violence, corruption and systematic human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, torture, and sexual and gender-based violence, as noted by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, even though it was prevented from entering the country.

Added to the above is the anti-democratic drift, underscored by rigged elections without an independent electoral arbiter or judicial system, and without an updated electoral roll, security for voters, freedom of expression or freedom of the press, much less conditions for the pluralistic exercise of political activity. This deterioration in the fundamental values of democracy and in the integrity of the rule of law began during Hugo Chávez’s first term in office and has continued to worsen, leading Venezuela to become a failed State incapable of providing the minimum safeguards for civil, political, economic, social, environmental and cultural rights.

All this has led to nearly 6 million people leaving Venezuelan territory in recent years, a figure only surpassed by the situation in Syria.

Colombia’s commitment to those who are in our country, about 1,800,000 Venezuelans, has been unwavering and was recently upheld by the adoption of temporary protection status for Venezuelan migrants, an exemplary mechanism to move towards safeguarding their rights.

The massive displacement since 21 March of 5,737 people, according to the census carried out by the Inter-Agency Mixed Migration Flows Group led by UNHCR and IOM in the border municipality of Arauquita, and which was caused by indiscriminate operations of the regime’s military apparatus acting without respect for international humanitarian law, has generated a new crisis that has been addressed promptly and with commitment by the Colombian authorities. For that purpose, we have counted on the support of all the agencies of the United Nations system present in the region, whose representatives have witnessed the dramatic testimonies of the victims of these displacements.

During a visit to the border on 10 April, representatives of several Security Council member States, as well as of OHCHR, IOM, UNHCR, the Verification Mission and the Office of the Resident Coordinator, accompanied by officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other State entities, verified the conditions of humanitarian assistance and once again listened to the heartbreaking testimonies of the victims.

The Office of the Ombudsman of Colombia, a national human rights institution, also heard first-hand from those affected about the brutal attacks being suffered by the population as a result of clashes between the troops of Nicolás Maduro’s regime, including the Special Armed Forces, and organized armed groups whose actions in Venezuelan territory were permitted and condoned until recently.

Those affected have indicated their desire not to return, as they consider that there are no guarantees for their safety in the neighbouring country. Some have even returned only temporarily to collect their belongings and then once again seek the safe ground of Colombian territory, where they have found food, shelter and sanitary conditions.

The illegitimate regime of Maduro, as usual, is seeking to divert international attention away from the complicit relationship of his dictatorship with groups of drug traffickers and terrorists. It is now seeking to show a fictitious image of combating crime, but all the evidence confirms that this is a totalitarian regime that does not respect any legal framework.

The dictatorship has destroyed the rule of law, the production system and basic social services in Venezuela, and is seriously threatening the human rights of the population.

For more than 20 years, both Chavez and Maduro have turned the permanent conspiracy against their regime into a bastion for their propaganda. As we already mentioned in the letter of 20 May 2020, the Venezuelan regime accused Colombia of being “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 is among several other examples that constitute violations of the rules of international law.

The Government of President Duque has also experienced constant groundless attacks and accusations by the Maduro regime. However, it is clear that one of the main concerns of Colombian foreign policy is the situation affecting Venezuelan citizens and its future evolution. The re-establishment of the democratic order in Venezuela is crucial for Colombia and for the region.

Nevertheless, 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. This is despite multiple provocations. Since 2015, there have been more than 70 incidents along the 2,219 kilometers of shared border. In 59 of these incidents, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces have been involved in excesses that led to approximately 60 Colombian nationals being injured with firearms or falling victim to robbery, kidnapping and extortion, not to mention the terrorist actions carried out by organized armed groups against Colombian law enforcement personnel from Venezuelan territory, a few meters away from the military units of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces, as has occurred in the border department of Arauca.

It is worth recalling that there are links between the regime of Nicolás Maduro, the terrorist organization of Colombian origin ELN and other organized armed groups involved in illicit mining of gold and other minerals in the Orinoco Mining Arc, where a genuine ecocide is taking place, as well as the growing presence of Hizbullah in Venezuela.

The presence and actions of ELN 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 of America.

Today, that regime is seeking to deny the historical links that it has had with terrorist and drug-trafficking organizations in order to blame others for the grave security and humanitarian situation being experienced by its people. Colombia has been very clear with the international community about the challenges to peacebuilding and to the existence of the rule of law in the face of phenomena characterized as transnational crimes, such as drug trafficking and terrorism. It is worth recalling the mandatory commitment made by States pursuant to Security Council resolution 1373 (2001), among others, to address this scourge.

My country has fought a tireless battle against crime; it has strengthened its institutions and has achieved significant economic and social progress since the beginning of the century. Drug trafficking and organized armed groups which exploit the proceeds of crime, cause violence and disproportionately affect the most vulnerable communities are being combated with the full force of the law. According to information provided by the Attorney-General’s Office, 31 prominent leaders of organized armed groups and criminal structures were prosecuted and/or arrested in 2020, including 7 national leaders and 24 regional leaders. In addition, 2,117 members of the country’s most powerful armed structures were captured (443 members of the FARC dissidents; 223 members of ELN and 758 members of Clan del Golfo, also known as Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia).

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.

As mentioned above, in its communication, the regime led by Nicolás Maduro seeks to have the Security Council make use of the powers granted to it under Article 34 of the Charter of the United Nations to investigate the alleged activities of Colombian armed groups carrying out what it calls “armed attacks… against the territory and people of Venezuela”, as well as alleged harm caused by the resurgence of what it calls an “internal war in Colombia” over Venezuela.

In this regard, my delegation would like to point out that, although the Security Council is empowered under this article to investigate whether a dispute could affect international peace or security, Colombia firmly rejects this attempt to conflate the different situations in the border region between the two countries and to seek, through evasive manoeuvres, to distract attention from an issue that has been clearly diagnosed by the international community, namely, the collusion of the Maduro regime with criminal and terrorist actors of various kinds.

In the present case, the factual and legal requirements for invoking Article 34 of the Charter have not been met. On the contrary, dedicating efforts to this veiled attempt to divert attention from the real problems in the region would lead to a duplication of the Council’s mechanisms.

My Government wishes to reiterate emphatically that it is the dictatorial regime that supports criminal structures linked to drug trafficking and terrorism, which have been operating in the territory of the neighbouring country for some time. None of the actions of the Colombian State have been covert or hidden, and none of our country’s actions give rise to the need for the Security Council to apply Article 34 of the Charter.

In conclusion, I would like to thank 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 the implementation of the Peace with Legality policy, through which the Agreement signed in 2016 with the former FARC guerrillas is being developed.

As the Secretary-General highlighted in his quarterly reports to the Security Council in the context of the Verification Mission:

As a result of the Agreement, the country has seen a significant nationwide decrease in violence compared to previous decades, such as notable reductions in homicides, kidnappings and other conflict-related indicators; Colombian democracy has expanded to include more political participation; conflict-affected communities are beginning to see the fruits of long-overdue investments in their regions; and a transitional justice system is working to provide truth, justice and reparations to victims. The parties to the Agreement remain committed to implementing the various components of the Agreement, with the support of Colombian society and the international community, amid formidable challenges, particularly the persistence and concentration of violence in some regions (S/2020/1301).

President Duque himself has publicly stated his intention for the Verification Mission to remain in Colombia until the end of his term and, as the members of the Council are aware, Colombia has requested an extension of the Mission’s mandate in order to continue the joint efforts of the Government and the international community to consolidate and strengthen the rule of law.

What is occurring in Venezuelan territory is not the fault of Colombia but of an incapable and ineffective regime that today is suffering the consequences of having harboured criminals of Colombian origin, as we have reported so many times.