Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido is facing yet another scandal after the publication of photographs showing him alongside two members of a Colombian criminal gang.
Venezuela's Interior Minister Nestor Reverol during a TV appearance on Friday presented the photos, which showed Guaido in the company of two members of the Colombian drug-trafficking group, the Rastrojos.
Reverol said he would send the photos as evidence to the state prosecutor's office, which later announced it would open an investigation into the case.
Lo dijimos desde el primer día: la entrada a Colombia el 23 de febrero del sr @jguaido fue coordinada con los Rastrojos. Aquí están alias el brother armado, y el segundo al mando de este grupo paramilitar, alias el menor. pic.twitter.com/qflAYBgWQf— WILFREDO CAÑIZARES (@wilcan91) September 12, 2019
In the meantime, Colombian police sources confirmed the two men were members of Rastrojos —a criminal group made up of ex-paramilitaries that engage in drug trafficking across the country, including along the Venezuelan border.
President Nicolas Maduro also reacted to the scandal on Thursday, saying the images were definitive evidence of Guaidó’s ties to “paracos, murderers and narco-traffickers”.
“The connection between Colombian narco-trafficking and the Venezuelan right is right there in the photo. No one can deny it,” he said in a televised speech.
Guido, however, denied knowing who the men were, saying they asked him to take a photo when he was in Colombia back in February.
The opposition figure violated a travel ban that was imposed against him by the Supreme Court back then and crossed into Colombia via an informal border route.
"We didn't ask for their criminal record to take a photo," he told reporters in the capital Caracas. “I took hundreds of photos that day, it was hard to know who was asking for a photo.”
Guaidó’s envoy to the United States, Carlos Vecchio, also denied the allegation, saying, “There is no connection between Juan Guaidó’s interim government [and] any paramilitary or guerrilla group. Zero, zero.”
The opposition figure plunged the country into political turmoil by rejecting the outcome of the May 2018 election, which Maduro won, and declared himself president.
He has been accusing Maduro of “usurping power” and calling on him to step down. The United States and its Western allies have recognized Guaido as the legitimate leader of the oil-rich nation.
Guaido faces another scandal, as Attorney General Tarek William Saab said last week that Guaido was under investigation for negotiating to renounce "the historical claim our country has on the territory of Esequibo” — which is controlled by neighboring Guyana.
Saab told reporters last Saturday that Guaido was engaged in “illegal negotiations, behind the back of the country” in exchange for “political support from the United Kingdom.”
"The facts imply a crime of treason," he added.