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Colombia’s President Is Shot at in Helicopter but Survives Attack

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — President Iván Duque of Colombia mentioned he was aboard a helicopter that was shot at late Friday afternoon, in an assault that left bullet holes in the plane.

None of the passengers, together with a number of prime ministers, had been killed, Mr. Duque mentioned in a video address simply after the assault. He didn’t say whether or not anybody had been injured.

The authorities didn’t instantly say who they thought was answerable for the assault, which occurred close to the border with Venezuela.

Mr. Duque referred to as the taking pictures “cowardly” and vowed to proceed “the fight against narcotrafficking, against terrorism and against the organized crime groups that operate in the country.”

The Colombian authorities has fought left-wing guerrillas, drug cartels, paramilitary operations and different legal components for generations.

Despite a peace deal signed in 2016 by Mr. Duque’s predecessor and the nation’s largest insurgent group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, violence continues in elements of the nation, particularly in rural areas.

The assault Friday occurred as Mr. Duque was flying to the border metropolis of Cúcuta from the city of Sardinata in the troubled area of Catatumbo, the place the coca crops which might be used to make cocaine flourish, as do the armed teams that management the drug commerce. These teams embody members of the FARC who didn’t signal the peace deal, in addition to the National Liberation Army, referred to as the ELN.

Some of those armed teams have gained power by hiding out in close by Venezuela, the place the federal government has generally been tolerant of their presence.

Earlier this month, a automotive bomb went off at a army base in Cúcuta, injuring 36 individuals, based on the protection ministry. The Colombian authorities has not named a suspect in that case.

The helicopter assault occurred as Mr. Duque faces what a number of analysts have referred to as essentially the most tough second of his presidency.

One recent poll, carried out by the agency Datexco, put his favorability ranking at 16 %, the bottom since he took office in 2018.

Despite the peace deal, violence has risen in elements of the countryside throughout Mr. Duque’s tenure, and mass killings and assassinations of social leaders proceed to be frequent.

Mr. Duque’s critics have mentioned that he has not carried out sufficient to hold out the peace accord, in which the federal government promised to enact financial support applications that may foster peace in rural areas hit laborious by many years of battle.

His authorities has mentioned it’s working to implement these applications. It has identified that the peace deal was an accord with only one group — the FARC — and that it had inherited conflicts with a posh mixture of different violent actors.

The pandemic has introduced Mr. Duque with further challenges. In the final week, Colombia skilled the globe’s third-highest common variety of day by day Covid-19 deaths, behind solely Brazil and India, based on a New York Times evaluation, and protesters lately spent weeks in the streets expressing anger over rising poverty and inequality.

Dozens of individuals died in these protests, many at the fingers of the nationwide police.

It isn’t clear if the perpetrators of the helicopter assault knew that Mr. Duque was aboard the plane.

The president may use a second in which Colombians rally round him, argued Sergio Guzmán of Colombia Risk Analysis, a neighborhood political threat consultancy.

“When there are events that threaten the office of the president,” he mentioned, “there is a ‘rally round the flag’ effect that President Duque’s supporters have been calling for for a while.”

In the helicopter with Mr. Duque on Friday had been his protection minister, Diego Molano; his inside minister, Daniel Palacios; and the governor of the division of Norte de Santander, Silvano Serrano.

“Our state is strong,” Mr. Duque mentioned in the video handle after the assault, “and Colombia is strong in the face of these threats.”

Sofía Villamil contributed reporting from Cali, Colombia.