Venezuela’s Vice-President has accused Colombia of working with the United States in an alleged international effort to ignite a war against the country.
During a Congress session, Aristobulo Isturiz announced that the United States is using Colombia to put pressure on Venezuela and assist with a CIA-backed initiative called “Operation Tenaza.”
“Operation Tenaza aims to position Colombia against Venezuela in order to detonate a war, and seeks to use Guyana so that the two neighboring countries on the East and West sides will pressure Venezuela in order to facilitate a US intervention,” Isturiz told Congress.
The accusation comes nine months after Venezuela closed its border with Colombia, severely straining relations between the two countries and resulting in the deportation of 1,500 Colombians and the displacement of 20,000.
Venezuela closed its border with Colombia last August to protect itself from a believed onslaught by formally defunct right-wing Colombian paramilitary groups, who Venezuela believed were infiltrating their territory an order to launch an attack on their socialist-like “Bolivarian” government.
The controversial move infuriated Colombia’s government and virtually ended trade between the two countries, which had already deteriorated due to the rapidly decreasing purchasing power of Venezuelans.
In response, Colombia’s government has tightened border regulations for Venezuelans, allowing them to enter the country by land only if they have Colombian residency.
The governor of the Venezuelan state of Tachira criticized the actions of the Colombian government, stating “It represents a sort of a kick and an excessive step to violate the Tonchala Treaty” which allows the entry of citizens of both countries with the presentation of the identity card.
Though Venezuela considered reopening the border last February, no action was taken.
Venezuela has been wracked with hyper-inflation, increased criminal violence in its cities and in the border region, and a scarcity of basic food products since Maduro took presidency in 2013.
Maduro’s administration blames these issues on Colombian smugglers, drug traffickers, and paramilitary groups, and reinforced border security to counter “those horrible and terrifying crimes coming to us from Colombia.”
Maduro also believed the smugglers were launching an attack on Venezuela’s socialist economic system by illegally exporting cheap Venezuelan products to Colombia while shelves in Venezuelan supermarkets remained empty.
There is some truth to the accusations: Colombian guerrillas and paramilitary successor groups have been taking advantage of the loose border between Venezuela and Colombia for years, smuggling gas, consumer goods, and drugs.
However, they have allegedly done so with (former) Venezuelan military officials making part of the so-called “Cartel de los Soles,” a loose connection of criminal cells who are believed to work with Colombian drug trafficking organizations to smuggle cocaine to the coast.
Isturiz also pointed to dramatically declining oil prices as evidence that the United States has a “political intention to beat Russia, Iran, and Venezuela,” a position also supported by Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.
In the last three years, Venezuela’s oil revenue dropped from $3.8 billion to $77 million, causing Maduro’s administration to declare a state of “economic emergency.”
“They know we have a single product economy and falling foreign exchange earnings placed us in a difficult situation, of course a weakness, and they took advantage,” Isturiz said.
During a governmental television broadcast yesterday, Isturiz also claimed he believed former president Hugo Chavez was murdered, though the leader’s death in March 2013 has been attributed to his two year battle with cancer. Though Isturiz admits he has no proof, he believes the social achievements of Chavez’ socialist government was a threat that made him a “target to be eliminated,” as reported by Terra News.
Despite allegations, United States Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated in an interview with CNN last week that the US government seeks to have a stable relationship with Venezuela and is not involved in any activities against the current Venezuelan government.