04:36 GMT25 September 2020
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    Tensions between Venezuela and Colombia have persisted for years as Caracas blames Bogota for supporting political forces seeking to topple President Nicolas Maduro's government.

    Colombian President Ivan Duque has claimed that the Venezuelan government is considering purchasing missiles from Iran.

    "There is information from international intelligence agencies which work with us showing that there is an interest from the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro to acquire some medium- and long-range missiles through Iran", Duque argued on Thursday.

    He asserted that the missiles "have not yet arrived" in Venezuela but that "there has been contact especially under instructions from [Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir] Padrino".

    Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza rejected the allegations, tweeting that Duque is "returning to infamies and anti-Venezuelan fiction to distract public opinion" from what he described as ongoing "massacres, unleashed violence, and uncontrollable drug trafficking" in Colombia.

    The Colombian president's claims followed five Iranian tankers in late May delivering more than a million barrels of oil to Venezuela, hit by a serious fuel shortage caused by US sanctions.

    In a separate development that month, Venezuelan Interior Minister Nestor Reverol announced that the country’s armed forces and police had thwarted an attempted naval invasion by mercenaries who tried to enter Venezuela by sea from neighbouring Colombia.

    "[…] Thanks to the fast and effective actions of our armed forces, and of the police task force, some [mercenaries] were brought down, and others are now imprisoned", Reverol added. .

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly denounced groups receiving support from Colombia and the US, accusing them of seeking "to undermine the stability of our homeland with violent actions". In April, Maduro announced the mobilisation of artillery in strategic areas to protect his country from a potential incursion.

    Caracas and Bogota broke off diplomatic relations in early 2019, amid an escalation of a political crisis in Venezuela as opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido proclaimed himself "interim president", calling on the democratically elected government of Nicolas Maduro to step down.

    Maduro responded by accusing Guiado of trying to stage a botched coup to rob Venezuela of its vast oil and mineral resources.


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    government, missiles, Ivan Duque, Nicolas Maduro, Iran, United States, Colombia, Venezuela
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