Maduro should spend money on food and not on missiles: Iván Duque

The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, should spend his country's money on food and not on missiles, Colombian President Iván Duque said Thursday, considering the announcement of the socialist leader to install an anti-aircraft defense system on the binational border.

President of Colombia, Ivan Duque, during a press conference.

President of Colombia, Ivan Duque, during a press conference. / Via REUTERS

Reuters | Luis Jaime Acosta

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Leer en español: Maduro debería gastar dinero en comida y no en misiles: Iván Duque

Amid escalating rhetoric between the two governments, Maduro on Tuesday ordered the armed forces to be alert to a possible attack by Colombia and announced military exercises at the border, which caused a strong reaction from the Government of Bogota, which qualified the maneuvers as a "threat" to regional stability.

Additionally, Maduro announced Wednesday that it will deploy a 2,219-kilometer missile system on the Colombian border.

"That now he shouldn't be mad talking about missiles in the border areas. Rather than spending that money on missiles, he should protect the Venezuelan people and give them food. But also that they leave the dictatorship and allow Venezuela regains its freedom," Duque told reporters in the Caribbean city of Barranquilla.

"That is the vilest way to make fun of a town, a hungry people, and the others showing off, talking about missiles," he added.

The two countries maintain antagonistic positions for more than a decade and currently do not have diplomatic relations.

Tensions increased last week when former guerrilla commanders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who had demobilized under a 2016 peace agreement announced that they will return to the armed struggle.

Read also: US increases aid budget for Venezuelan migration crisis

The Duque government insisted that the FARC dissident leaders who announced their return to the armed struggle in a video are in Venezuela protected and financed by Maduro, as well as guerrilla commanders of the National Liberation Army (ELN).

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry blamed the dissident rearmament on Duque's failure to comply with the peace agreement that sought to end an internal conflict of more than half a century that has left 260,000 dead. Maduro had said before that the FARC dissident bosses are "welcome" in Venezuela.

Despite the announcements of installing missiles and deploying troops at the border, Duque warned that Colombia will not fall into provocations and denounce Maduro's protection to illegal armed groups before the United Nations.

Colombia became the main destination for Venezuelan migrants fleeing the political, economic and social crisis that has caused a general shortage of food and medicine. Some 1.4 million Venezuelans live in Colombia.

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