The president of Colombia, Ivan Duque, revealed that the helicopter on which he was traveling in the direction of Cúcuta after visiting the city of Sardinata, in the Catatumbo, was attacked by strangers. “I want to inform the country – the head of state declared yesterday through the presidential press office – that after having fulfilled a commitment in the Colombian Catatumbo and while I was about to land in Cúcuta, the helicopter was the victim of an attack” and hit three times.
Duque and the Ministers of Defense and of the Interior, Diego Molano and Daniel Palacios, who accompanied him, were unharmed. “It was a cowardly attack,” Duque said, explaining that “the helicopter’s defense device prevented lethal consequences.” The aircraft is a Leonardo Aw-139, delivered by the Italian company in May.
The Catatumbo region is characterized by the intensive cultivation of coca plants. Guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) are active in the area, former Farc fighters who in 2016 refused the peace treaty with the government, as well as criminal groups involved in drug trafficking.
In this month, a car bomb exploded at a military base in Cucuta, injuring 36 people including Colombian troops and US military advisers. Defense Minister Molano had said the attack may have been carried out by the Eln, but the rebel group had denied any involvement.
After the bombing of the barracks, Duque’s government had promised to double the control and monitoring points in the Cucuta area from seven to fourteen, the scene for some time of a complex web of tensions between Colombia and Venezuela. The measures adopted also include that relating to a “network of civic participation” to obtain information on the movements of the guerrillas, as well as the patrolling of urban centers and the intensification of border controls.