Colombia leaves Unasur amid rising Venezuela friction

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Friday, August 10, 2018

Colombia has permanently withdrawn from the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), fulfilling a campaign promise of newly installed President Iván Duque (pictured).

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Foreign minister Carlos Holmes said on Friday that the regional body had become "an accomplice of the Venezuela dictatorship".

"It's an irreversible political decision," Holmes told a news conference in Bogotá, adding that Colombian officials were in talks with other Unasur members to leave the group simultaneously.

"If, as a result of these conversations, there is a similar reaction, we will act together, but if that does not happen, Colombia will denounce the constituent treaty [alone]," said Holmes.

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru suspended their affiliation with the 12-nation alliance in April.

Holmes called for a "relaunch" of the 35-member Organization of the American States and revealed that Bogotá is planning a "new border policy", hinting at a crackdown on Venezuelan immigrants.

An estimated 1mn Venezuelans have poured into Colombia over the past two years, fleeing from an economic crisis marked by hyperinflation and severe food shortages.

GROWING ISOLATION

Friday's announcement further isolates Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who began a second six-year term in May after an election widely denounced as rigged by the international community.

Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Panama and Peru were among regional governments that recalled their Caracas-based ambassadors after the vote while the US issued new sanctions against a government it described as a "kleptocracy".

In June, the European Union imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 11 Venezuelan officials for "human rights violations and undermining democracy".

Duque, a member of the conservative Centro Democrático party of former president Álvaro Uribe, was officially sworn in as president on Tuesday.

The 42-year-old began his tenure on a collision course with Caracas after Maduro accused Colombia of orchestrating an alleged assassination attempt against him last weekend.