Colombia Denounces Venezuelan Soldiers for Illegal Border Crossing

Venezuelan soldiers guard "trochas" -illegal trails- used by people to cross from San Antonio del Tachira, in Venezuela, to Cucuta, in Colombia, near the Simon Bolivar international bridge, on May 1, 2019. (Photo by Luis ROBAYO / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images)

Officials in Colombia expressed “concern” Tuesday after Venezuelan forces illegally entered their territory over the weekend in the eastern border region of Guainía.

The Colombian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “the events occurred after around 9am on June 22nd, while those affected were sailing along the Negro River, which serves as a border between the two countries.” Those responsible were identified as soldiers “belonging to the Bolivarian Armed Forces, and after being intimidated by firing shots in the air, were confronted by the community and forced to withdraw.”

“The Military Forces of Colombia remain ready to defend national sovereignty and the citizens who inhabit the border, always maintaining due caution in the face of these clear and repeated incitements, which only intend to give the impression that Colombia is the aggressor country,” the Ministry added.

The military incursion is the latest incident to flare up on the border as relations between the two countries continue to deteriorate. Last August, Colombian officials accused around 20 members of the Venezuelan National Guard of invading the northeastern province of La Guajira via motorcycle before attacking local residents as well as stealing money and cell phones.

The Colombian government, led by right-leaning President Iván Duque, have sided with the United States and the wider international community in recognizing President Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s head of state and backed his attempts to remove Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime from power.

In February, Maduro formally broke off relations with the neighboring country over their efforts to send humanitarian aid into Venezuela, which the military blocked on Maduro’s orders.

“My patience is exhausted, I can’t bear it anymore, we can’t keep putting up with Colombian territory being used for attacks against Venezuela,” Maduro said at the time. “For that reason, I have decided to break all political and diplomatic relations with Colombia’s fascist government.”

Last September, Colombia was one of three regional governments that declined to sign a document ruling out a military intervention in Venezuela, although it is understood that the Duque administration is still strongly opposed to the forceful removal of the Maduro regime.

Colombia remains the country most heavily affected by Venezuela’s economic collapse, having accepted over 1.2 million Venezuelan migrants, many of whom are in need of humanitarian assistance. According to estimates by Colombia’s foreign ministry, this figure could rise to four million people by 2021.

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