Venezuelan opposition chief denies ties to legal gang

Venezuelan Opposition chief and self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela Juan Guaido sits throughout a weekly session on the Nationwide Meeting in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Sept 10, 2019. (AP Photograph/Ariana Cubillos

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan opposition chief Juan Guaidó rejected allegations Friday that he has ties to an unlawful armed group in Colombia, as officers launched an investigation primarily based on pictures showing in social media purportedly exhibiting him posing with members of the gang.

The images have been allegedly taken in late February when Guaidó crossed into Colombia and made a shock look at a live performance organized by billionaire Richard Branson geared toward serving to ship humanitarian help to Venezuela.

Authorities officers loyal to President Nicolás Maduro are holding up the pictures as proof that Guaidó’s covert journey was orchestrated with the assistance of a Colombian legal gang often called the Rastrojos, an accusation he denies.

“That day I took pictures with many individuals,” Guaidó instructed Colombia’s BLU radio. “Evidently it is arduous to know who’s asking you for a photograph.”

The spat over the photographs comes amid escalating tensions between Colombia and Venezuela because the presidents of each international locations accuse each other of harboring unlawful armed teams plotting across-the-border assaults.

On Wednesday, a dozen nations together with america invoked the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Help, which contends {that a} menace in opposition to any single signatory ought to be thought-about a hazard to all of them. The act raises the stakes of a possible navy response although all sides have stated they need a peaceable answer.

Venezuelan Inside Minister Nestor Reverol appeared on state tv Friday laying out proof for a brand new probe into Guaidó, displaying pictures on the heart of the controversy.

“They show but once more Guaido’s affiliation with all of the terrorist actions being deliberate in Venezuela to disrupt the steadiness and peace of our democracy,” he stated.

Gen. Luis Fernando Navarro, the commander of Colombia’s navy, stated two of the lads seen within the pictures with Guaidó are members of the Rastrojos who’ve now been captured. The pictures present each males posing individually with Guaidó earlier than a wooded background.

Navarro recognized one of many males as Albeiro Lobo Quintero, alias Brother, and the opposite as Jhon Jairo Durán, alias Menor. Quintero allegedly turned himself into Colombian authorities someday after the {photograph} was taken, whereas Durán was captured from a canoe after being injured in a struggle with one other legal group in Venezuela.

Navarro stated he could not affirm precisely when or the place the pictures have been taken.

Guaidó instructed BLU radio that he had no recollection of the pictures being taken, and that he’s happy to know each males are not free.

“I rejoice that they have been detained,” Guaidó stated.

The Rastrojos have been working within the area for almost twenty years and at one level have been thought-about a significant drug trafficking group. Nevertheless, their numbers are believed to have waned after the seize of a number of prime leaders in 2012.

Tarek William Saab, Venezuela’s lawyer basic and a Maduro ally, rejected Guaidó’s declare that he had no concept who the lads have been. The brand new investigation is the fifth that Venezuelan officers have launched in opposition to Guaidó in latest months. He is additionally being accused of sparking violent protests and orchestrating a nationwide blackout.

“It is unimaginable to imagine these have been merely images taken by enamored followers who needed a photograph on the border with this man,” Saab stated. “No one believes this story.”

A video launched again in February confirmed Guaidó crossing a small border bridge with a dozen aides wearing collared work shirts. He jogged as he crossed, lifting up his hand and shouting encouraging phrases like, “We will do it!”

Guaidó was barred from leaving the nation on the time.

Many Venezuelans use backroads often called “trochas” that crisscross alongside the 1,370-mile (2,200-kilometer) border with Colombia. A whole bunch of such unlawful crossings are managed by legal gangs.

Colombian President Iván Duque stated Friday that officers had helped Guaidó in securing his security as he entered the nation although supplied few particulars.

“We facilitated his entry to Colombian territory,” he stated.

Relations between Colombia and Venezuela reached a low level earlier this yr when Maduro broke off diplomatic relations after Duque backed Guaidó in a failed push to ship worldwide humanitarian help throughout the border.

Tensions spiked once more in late August when a former Colombian insurgent peace negotiator and a small cadre of dissidents introduced they have been abandoning the nation’s historic peace accord and taking on arms once more. Duque has accused Maduro of sheltering the rebels and different leftist guerrillas who’re nonetheless waging conflict with Colombia’s authorities.

In the meantime, Venezuela’s authorities says Duque is permitting paramilitary camps in Colombia to coach armed males and plot assaults in opposition to Maduro. Venezuela’s navy launched two weeks of drills on the border with 1000’s of troops earlier this week.

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Armario reported from Bogotá, Colombia.

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