Colombia says Venezuelan troops crossed border illegally
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombia’s army denounced what it called an incursion by 15 members of Venezuela’s national guard who illegally crossed the border on Friday in pursuit of a civilian.
The Venezuelan troops allegedly fired upon the individual while chasing him in a 4x4 vehicle nearly 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) deep into Colombian territory near a rural hamlet in La Guajira province. When the suspect took refuge in a residence, the troops burned the motorcycle on which he had fled before retreating back across the border, the army said in a statement.
Colombian broadcast media showed images of the burnt vehicle and ammunition shells on a dirt road where the confrontation allegedly took place.
The incident comes amid rising bilateral tensions after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro closed all major border crossings between the two countries and deported some 1,500 Colombians he blames for widespread smuggling and crime.
Authorities in Venezuela have yet to respond. But they reacted angrily to complaints earlier in the week from Bogota that Venezuelan military planes violated the country*s air space on two occasions, saying that such reports are baseless and an attempt by Colombia’s government to escalate the month-long crisis.
The Colombian army said it sent reinforcements to the town and would notify the foreign ministry so they could lodge a formal protest.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Maduro are both scheduled to travel to Ecuador on Monday for the first face-to-face meeting since the crisis began.
Expectations are low that the meeting will encourage Venezuela to reverse its decision to seal off much of the 1,400-mile (2,200-kilometer) border.