As it flew over an area plagued by drug trafficking and guerrillas in the northeast of the country, the Colombian president’s helicopter was targeted by gunfire. Ivan Duque was on board with two of his ministers and a governor.
The helicopter aboard which Colombian President Ivan Duque was traveling was the target of shots on June 25, near the Venezuelan border, announced the head of state who denounced “a cowardly attack”.
The attack took place in the Norte department of Santander, a region in northeastern Colombia ravaged by violence between armed groups and drug trafficking. “It’s a cowardly attack, we see bullet holes on the presidential aircraft,” said Ivan Duque in an official statement, adding that his security service and the strength of the helicopter had succeeded in preventing “some deadly thing ‘to happen.
Images released by the Presidency showed several bullet holes on the tail and main rotor of the aircraft. “We are not intimidated with violence or with acts of terrorism. Our state is strong, and Colombia is strong enough to face this kind of threat, ”added the conservative president.
The United States strongly condemned the cowardly attack on the helicopter, and the European Union delegation in Colombia expressed its “head-on and complete rejection” of this act.
This is the first attack against a Colombian head of state since that committed by the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) in February 2003 against Alvaro Uribe, the political mentor of Ivan Duque. A high power bomb had exploded in a house near the airport of Neiva (southwest) shortly before the landing of the presidential plane, killing 15 and injuring 66.
Region of great insecurity
Ivan Duque was on board the helicopter on June 25 with his defense and interior ministers, and the governor of the Norte de Santander department. No one was injured in the attack. The aircraft had taken off from the village of Sardinata, where the president and his attendants had attended a ceremony, and was heading for Cucuta, the capital of the department.
This highly insecure area, one of Colombia’s main drug-producing regions, stretches along the porous 2,200-kilometer border with Venezuela. The government forces there confront the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN), the Pelusos, vestiges of a demobilized Maoist insurgency, as well as dissidents of the Farc and numerous gangs of drug traffickers.
Armed groups are also fighting among themselves for control of the 41,000 hectares of coca leaves in the region, which is a major smuggling route to Venezuela and the Caribbean.
On June 16, the explosion of a car bomb inside a military installation in Cucuta left 36 people injured.
Ivan Duque broke off in 2019 the negotiations that his predecessor Juan Manuel Santos was leading with the ELN in Cuba, after signing a peace agreement with the Farc in 2016. He buried the talks after a January 2019 car bomb attack on the Bogota Police Academy, in which 22 cadets were killed, in addition to the perpetrator of the attack. Since Ivan Duque came to power in 2018, Colombia has faced the worst wave of violence it has seen since the disarmament of the Farc, mainly linked to rivalries for control of drug trafficking and mining. illegal mining.
The right-wing president has also been facing a social crisis since the end of April, which erupted in reaction to a plan to raise taxes since withdrawn. Almost daily demonstrations take place, and clashes have left dozens of people dead.