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PHOTOS showing Venezuelan self-declared “president” Juan Guaido with members of a notorious Colombian drug-trafficking and kidnapping gang show the pretender’s “criminal alliances,” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro charged at the weekend.
Photos released on Thursday by human rights activist Wilfredo Canizares showed Mr Guaido, who declared himself president in January but has been unable to supplant Venezuela’s elected authorities despite support from the United States and neighbouring Colombia, with four members of the Los Rastrojos gang back in February.
One, Jhon Jairo Duran, was arrested by Colombian authorities in June after fleeing a shooting in which 12 people were killed. Los Rastrojos’s activities include cocaine smuggling, kidnapping people for ransom and extortion, and take place on both sides of the Venezuela-Colombia border.
President Maduro said the gang had facilitated Mr Guaido’s February trip across the Colombian border to watch a “Live Aid” concert sponsored by billionaire Richard Branson that was ostensibly about pressing Venezuelan authorities to open their borders to US aid shipments (despite shortages in the country being caused by US sanctions).
“Colombia knows that Los Rastrojos kill people every day and [Mr Guaido] is photographed with four of the most dangerous criminals, murderers and drug traffickers in [the Colombian town of] Cucuta,” he stormed.
Mr Guaido says so many people ask him for selfies that he cannot be expected to vet who they are, and “misconstruing” photos showing him with paramilitaries is “playing the Maduro regime’s game.”
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