Bogotá, Colombia (AP) – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Monday accused Colombia's government of giving its consent to a plan to assassinate him as both countries try to rally regional support in a border dispute exacerbating tensions between the two neighbors.
Maduro said during a visit to Vietnam that the conspiracy has the consent of Colombia's government. Maduro, who frequently accuses Colombia of trying to topple his government, didn't present any details or evidence to back the claim but said he would soon. Officials in Bogotá didn't immediately respond.
The president's remarks come as diplomats from 34 Western Hemisphere nations gathered at the Organization of American States in Washington for an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis that has already led to the closure of six border crossings and created a humanitarian crisis as some 10,000 Colombians who had been living illegally in Venezuela flee a crackdown on crime and smuggling.
Maduro has said the offensive is necessary to attack criminal gangs that purchase gas and other goods sold at subsidized prices in Venezuela and resell them across the border for huge profits.
But human rights groups, as well as the U.S., the United Nations and the European Union, have questioned Venezuela's strong-armed tactics, expressing concern over Maduro's decision to declare a state of emergency in several states and send thousands of troops to the border. Among those deported are Colombians fleeing the country's long-running civil conflict who had been granted or solicited asylum in Venezuela, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which led a fact-finding mission to the border.
At the OAS on Monday, the heated rhetoric of recent days was once again apparent.
Colombia's ambassador expressed outrage over the treatment of migrants many of whom are living in tents at hastily-mounted shelters in the eastern city of Cucuta. In turn, Venezuela's envoy accused Colombian elites of being blind to their country's poor and drumming up nationalist sentiment in the same way hate-filled media fueled genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s.
The meeting ended with Colombia one vote shy of the 18 needed to call a meeting of the hemisphere's foreign ministers. For now, the diplomatic bickering shifts Thursday to Quito, Ecuador where foreign ministers from South America are expected to gather for another attempt to ease tensions.
Venezuelan authorities said they have closed 177 illegal border crossings since embarking on a security offensive in western Tachira state.