The president of Colombia, Iván Duque, and his interior and defense ministers have emerged unscathed from an attack against the presidential helicopter in which they were traveling this Friday and that has not yet been claimed. The aircraft was shot six times as it approached the city of Cúcuta, on the border with Venezuela, where it was finally able to land safely with its occupants.
Duque indicated already on the ground that “both the aerial device and the capacity of the aircraft prevented something lethal from happening. The truth is that it is a cowardly attack, where bullet wounds are seen on the presidential aircraft.” Along with him were the Interior Minister, Daniel Palacios, the Defense Minister, Diego Molano, and the Governor of Norte de Santander, Silvano Serrano.
“After fulfilling a commitment in Sardinata, in the Colombian Catatumbo, and approaching to land in the city of Cúcuta, the presidential helicopter was the victim of an attack,” the president stressed in the statement along with his two ministers. In videos apparently recorded in neighborhoods on the outskirts of Cúcuta and published on social networks, you can see how a helicopter flies over the area at low altitude and gunshots are heard for at least 15 seconds.
A region with several armed groups
So far no one has claimed responsibility for the attack that took place in a region, Catatumbo, in which different illegal armed groups proliferate. The area covers 10,089 square kilometers, mostly jungle, forms the border with Venezuela and is made up of eleven municipalities where the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN), FARC dissidents, a stronghold of the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) operate. and drug gangs.
Even in Cúcuta, the regional capital, which has the main border crossings between Colombia and Venezuela, there is a strong presence of these groups and criminal gangs dedicated to drug trafficking, extortion and smuggling. Just ten days ago, a terrorist attack with a car bomb left 36 wounded at the headquarters of the Army’s 30th Brigade in Cúcuta, where there were United States military personnel, and at the beginning of the month, prosecutor Esperanza Navas was shot dead.
“Once again we reiterate that as a government we are not going to falter for a single minute, a single day, in the fight against drug trafficking, terrorism and organized crime organizations that operate in the country. Here they do not intimidate us with violence or acts of terrorism, our State is strong, “Duque said today.
“Take care of radicalization”
The attack against the president was immediately condemned by opponents of Duque, as well as by international organizations that surrounded the president and the Colombian democratic institutions. “Whatever the distances that separate us, I reject the attack against the president. A democracy consists of no one dying for their ideas,” said Senator Gustavo Petro, leader of the opposition, on his social networks.
The mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, also a member of the opposition, described the attack as “an attack against citizens, against the president and against our democracy”, and affirmed that “we have to take care of Colombia from radicalization and romanticization of all forms of violent aggression “.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its condemnation of the attack against the president and his ministers, while the director for the Americas of Human Rights Watch (HRW), José Miguel Vivanco, said he “categorically” repudiates it.
“Full and resounding rejection of the attack against the helicopter in which President Iván Duque and the ministers were traveling,” said the ambassador of the European Union in Colombia, Patricia Llombart. The US embassy in Bogotá said it “strongly condemns the cowardly attack on the helicopter,” while expressing its satisfaction that “everyone is safe and we congratulate the pilots who brought the aircraft to a safe landing.”
For his part, the Mexican Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, expressed his “solidarity” with President Duque and said that his country “rejects violence and supports the democratic institutions of Colombia,” and the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó expressed himself in similar terms. , which has one of its main allies in Duque.