Colombians held over Maduro plot

AFP-JIJI

Venezuelan authorities said Monday they had arrested nine Colombian paramilitary fighters they accused of plotting to assassinate President Nicolas Maduro amid an ongoing diplomatic spat with Bogota.

Maduro accused Colombia of waging a “dirty campaign” against his newly formed administration.

The two neighboring countries have been at odds since Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos hosted Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles at the presidential palace last month, infuriating the leftist government in Caracas.

Venezuelan Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said the arrested fighters belonged to two separate groups, including one led by Chepe Barrera.

“We strongly presume this is part of a plan orchestrated from there (Bogota) to endanger the life of our president and destabilize the government,” Rodriguez told state television.

“We suspect these gentlemen have links to right-wing elements” in Venezuela, he added.