Colombian President Ivan Duque Urges China to Join Diplomatic Blockade Against Venezuela

Colombian President Ivan Duque with Michelle Caruso-Cabrera CNBC contributor at the Wilson Center forum discussing Colombia´s Domestic and Regional Opportunities and Challenges on February 14, 2019. Foto: MLN

Ninoska Marcano M.

Washington (MLN)- Colombian President Iván Duque urged China on Thursday to reconsider their alliance to Nicolás Maduro as the ruler of Venezuela and instead support the new interim president Juan Guaidó, as part of the international community’s efforts to aid Venezuela’s transition process back to democracy.

The announcement was made at the Wilson Center during the Colombian head of state second day visit to Washington DC.  After his official meeting with President Donald Trump on Wednesday at the White House, Duque continued his round of meetings with investors during Thursday morning at the US Chamber of Commerce, he also visited the World Bank, and the Interamerican Development Bank (BID).

Before a full house at The Wilson Center’s atrium, Duque did not waste any efforts to share his thought not just on Colombia, but on how to deal with the Venezuelan unprecedented political and social crisis, one that has hit neighboring Colombia the hardest. The estimated 1.3 million Venezuelan that have crossed and settled in the Colombian side have overwhelmed the Colombian government capacity to manage the masses. To date, according to OAS figures, approximately 3 million Venezuelans are displaced and have left their country due to hyperinflation, lack of food and medicines and the growing violence under President Maduro’s regime.

Since January 23, Venezuela has had a parallel government headed by interim President Juan Guaido, as the international community drifted away from Nicolas Maduro administration, and recognized Juan Guaido as the nations interim head of state.

The 14-member Lima Group, which Colombia is an active member, recognized the 35 year-old Venezuelan opposition leader and unleased a domino effect of world leaders announcing their support to the Caribbean nation’s  interim President. For nearly three weeks, different head of states have added their names to the long list of countries publicly showing  their support to the young leader, and denouncing Maduro as an illegitimate leader.

At the Wilson Center on Thursday, Duque reinforced the idea world leaders must continue their support to Venezuela’s transition process to democracy, and asked the international community to strengthen what he has called “the diplomatic blockade of Venezuela’s dictatorship.”

Insisting that all sound and good investments are healthy for Colombia and the region, President Duque said Chinese investments are welcomed in Colombia and he sees no obstacles in the Asian giant participating in development projects, as long as they can “invest fulfilling the rules”.

“I think we should not be afraid or try to stigmatize whether Chinese investments or Chinese industries are present [in the region,]” he said.  

But the views he shared on Asian investment in the region took an unprecedented twist, when he called the Venezuelan head of state a dictator, and directly asked the Chinese government to decide to against Maduro and support the new interim president, Juan Guaido.   

“What I would invite respectfully the Chinese government is to reconsider the validation of Maduro as the ruler of Venezuela because he is a dictator. So, I would respectfully invite the Chinese to support Juan Guaido because I think that is important for Latin America, and I think that would give even more respect to the role they can play in a region…,” he said referring to the Chinese giant.

Duque did not fall short of calling Maduro a “ruthless dictator” one that has derailed and impoverished Venezuela, and asked China to take the decision to withdraw their support to Maduro.  

When asked if he knew whether China has been meeting or siding with the Venezuelan opposition to safeguard their interests, Duque said he had no information to make a statement.

By the same token, Duque spoke highly of Juan Guaido and called him a “courageous man, and a patriot” while explaining to an enthusiastic crowd, the moment to end the ruthless dictatorship in Venezuela had arrived.

“Blockading humanitarian aid for me is a crime against humanity…Blockading international humanitarian aid is simply insane”, he said.

Duque explained that he told interim President Guaido that Colombia plans to support the humanitarian aid caravans expected to attempt to reach Venezuelan territory on February 23, and said  he hopes Venezuela’s military will join in the international effort to extend the much needed aid to the people.

“Our territory is open to receiving the international aide, and …I hope on that day, all the members of Venezuelan military say no more to Maduro, and allow the humanitarian aid to enter the country and help the people in need.”

The Colombian head of state continued to explain that if the military refused to help, they would be trialed by the international community since their actions would be seen as “a demonstration of hatred.”

Calling the diplomatic blockage a success in “demonstrating the power of good diplomacy,” Duque dismissed speculations of a military intervention by Colombia, and went on to say Maduro “has recognized that his days are over.” Duque explained Maduro lacks power and legitimacy, and the only recognized leader by the international community is now Guaido.

“His days are over,” he insisted.

The Colombian head of state explained that Guaido stands as Venezuela’s chance to re-enter into a democracy,  and reestablish liberties and hopes for the Venezuelan people.

Regarding granting Maduro a possible amnesty, Duque categorically said that it was not an option because he considered him an international criminal and he should face and undergo international justice.

Duque recalled that during his days as a Congressman, he denounced Maduro before the international criminal court as a dictator, and had promised his constituents that if elected as president of Colombia, he would denounce him.

“It is the moral duty to denounce a dictator”, he said.

Duque served as a Senator in Colombia from 2014-2018 for the Democratic Center Party,  and he took office August 7, 2017. He worked for over 10 years at the BID headquarters in Washington D.C..

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