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By Julia Symmes Cobb and Luis Jaime Acosta
BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombian President Ivan Duque on Saturday called for coordinated international sanctions against Venezuela to help prevent President Nicolas Maduro's support of Colombian rebels and traffickers from destabilizing Latin America.
Duke, who accuses Maduro of providing a refuge for Colombian rebel fighters from the now demobilized FARC guerrilla group and the still active ELN rebels, compared the Venezuelan leader to former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who was tried for alleged war crimes in conflicts. that destabilized the Balkans.
"We must consider the sanctions and community actions to end the threat of (Venezuela) protecting terrorism in its territory," Duke told Reuters before traveling to the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.
"The international community must understand that dictatorship must end soon, because the humanitarian tragedy, in addition to the consolidation of a dictatorial regime that coexists with drug cartels and terrorism, is a threat to the entire western hemisphere and to the stability of the world. "
Maduro accuses Colombia of preparing to attack Venezuela and repeatedly warned of a coordinated invasion with the US government.
Latin American countries could invoke the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, known for its Spanish initials TIAR, against Maduro, Duque said. The treaty considers an attack on any of the signatories an attack on all of them.
"TIAR has been successfully invoked over and over, but the invocation need not necessarily refer explicitly to military action," Duque said. "What matters first is coordinated action."
Washington, which has imposed several rounds of sanctions against Maduro's government, has expressed hope that European countries will also impose sanctions in the coming months.
Most Western countries consider Maduro illegitimate – saying he secured a second term last year through a fraudulent vote. Colombia is among the countries that support opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.
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Maduro says Guaido is a US puppet who seeks a scam.
Colombia is ready to face any attack by former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a group that has recently rearmed, Duque said.
"When they decide to enter Colombian territory, we will be here waiting with the full force of the military," Duke said. "You can never minimize an effort to defeat terrorism."
Lately, Colombia has been under pressure from the Trump administration to reduce coca cultivation, the staple ingredient of cocaine, which has reached record levels in recent years.
But Duke said the struggle to eradicate half of the plant's more than 200,000 hectares by 2023 is from his country.
"The fight against drug trafficking is a struggle of conviction, of principle, we do not do it under pressure from anyone," he said. (Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Luis Jaime Acosta; edition of Daniel Flynn, Daniel Wallis and David Gregorio)