Bogota in photos row over Venezuela at UN

Colombia's president put the UN on alert about alleged Venezuelan misdeeds -- but the captions were wrong (AFP Photo/TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

Bogota (AFP) - Colombian President Ivan Duque said he handed the UN photographic evidence this week proving Venezuela was sheltering ELN rebels, but the images were duds.

The pictures were contained in a 128-page dossier he handed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the General Assembly in New York on Thursday.

The gaffe, since the caption information was wrong, drew ridicule from Venezuela's Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez accusing Duque of trying to dupe the UN with "fake photographs."

One purportedly shows guerrillas carrying out "indoctrination" of rural schoolchildren in the Venezuelan state of Tachira in April 2018.

Yet the daily El Colombiano de Medellin said it had published the picture in 2015 to illustrate a report on guerrillas recruiting minors in Colombia's Cauca department.

"This picture is not about the ELN in Venezuela. We got it exclusively in Cauca in 2015," El Colombiano reporter Javier Alexander Macias told AFP. He said it had been passed to the paper by the intelligence service.

A presidential source in Bogota said an investigation was under way, but maintained that the disputed photo was taken in Tachira.

A reverse search by AFP verified that the image was first published in El Colombiano in 2015, though the location could not be independently confirmed.

Another photo, of a wooden cabin with ELN painted on the side, illustrates Duque's claim of an ELN operation in the Venezuelan state of Bolivar in October 2018.

The photo was actually taken in the Colombian region of Catatumbo by AFP photographer Luis Robayo on September 20, 2018.

Bogota regularly accuses Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro of harboring Colombian ELN and FARC guerrillas on its territory with the aim of destablizing Bogota. Caracas similarly claims Bogota backs armed groups on its territory.

"And now Ivan Duque presents fake photographs at the UN," Rodriguez said in a tweet.

"The world's largest cocaine producer, 8 million war victims, hundreds of thousands killed, with a liar government that protects and uses paramilitaries to attack Venezuela."