Colombia’s leader said he wouldn’t back Venezuela’s dictator, but that’s just what Petro is doing | Opinion


Colombia’s new leftist government claims it is normalizing ties with Venezuela only for humanitarian and economic reasons. But leaders’ latest comments show it’s going far beyond that. In fact, Colombia is lending political support for Venezuela’s regime, helping to legitimize one of the world’s worst dictatorships.

By Aol – Andrés Oppenheimer

Sep 14, 2022

Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s newly appointed ambassador to Venezuela, Armando Benedetti, said in a Sept. 4 interview with the daily El Colombiano that, “(Venezuelan President Nicolás) Maduro is democratically elected.” He added, almost in passing, that, “I know that there are some allegations on human-rights issues and distortion of electoral data, but that’s an issue that is up to them to resolve.”

What? Maduro was elected democratically? That’s one of the most outlandish statements I’ve heard in a long time. And claiming that Maduro’s 2018 electoral fraud was an internal affair goes against all hemispheric agreements to defend democracy.

Maduro reelected himself in a sham 2018 election after banning his main political rivals, censoring the media, stacking the electoral tribunal with his cronies and prohibiting international election observers.

And Maduro’s death squads killed more than 6,700 people during nationwide protests between January 2018 and May 2019, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Office.

More than 50 democracies, including the United States, and virtually all 28 members of the European Union, declared Maduro an illegitimate president. And all of that happened after Maduro became a dictator in 2016, when he stripped the opposition-majority congress of virtually all powers.

Still, Colombia’s new ambassador to Venezuela has shared smiling pictures of himself with Maduro on social media and told Colombia’s Semana magazine that Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó “does not exist.”

This week, Colombia’s Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva gave yet another propaganda boost to the Venezuelan regime by confirming that Colombia might withdraw its petition for an International Criminal Court investigation into Venezuela’s human-rights abuses.

Leyva said in a Sept. 9 interview with Colombian journalist Daniel Coronell that, “We are recomposing our relations with Venezuela,” which implies “revising” alleged mistakes made by previous Colombian governments. Colombia’s withdrawal most likely will not stop the International Criminal Court’s investigation, which is already underway.

Leyva also suggested that former Colombian President Iván Duque made a big mistake severing all ties with Venezuela. That decision was a “barbarity,” he said.

When I called Duque and asked him about the foreign minister’s claims, he told me they are absurd.

“I didn’t close consular ties with Venezuela: It was Maduro who expelled all Colombian diplomatic personnel from Venezuela in February 2019,” Duque told me. Furthermore, Colombia already had withdrawn its ambassador to Venezuela alongside several other countries in 2018, before he had taken office, he added.

Duque says it’s OK to resume consular ties with Venezuela to help solve humanitarian problems along the border, but claiming Maduro was elected democratically or withdrawing Colombia’s petition to the International Criminal Court is a different matter.

“My biggest concern is that Colombia ends up legitimizing and giving political oxygen to Nicolás Maduro’s dictatorship,” Duque told me.

He said he’s concerned that Colombia will change its previous votes at the U.N. Human Rights Council and support Venezuela, or abstain, in an upcoming vote on Venezuela’s abuses later this month or in early October.

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