Colombia blasts Venezuela over alleged military incursion

Bogota (AFP) –


Colombia hit out at neighbor Venezuela on Wednesday for "repeated provocations" after claiming around 30 military personnel crossed into its territory.

In a statement, the foreign ministry said the Venezuelan unit crossed 200 meters into northeastern Colombia.

They were "identified by locals as belonging to the Bolivarian Armed Forces, at the service of the (Nicolas) Maduro regime, who remained for around 20 minutes," the statement said.

The Venezuelan military personnel left the area when they noticed the arrival of a helicopter carrying Colombian soldiers, "who were sent to attend to calls from the community denouncing acts of intimidation."

The statement said Colombia's military was "ready to defend (its) territorial integrity, while always maintaining the necessary prudence in the face of these clear and repeated provocations that aim only to incite a response to make Colombia look like the aggressor."

Bogota frequently complains of territorial incursions by the Venezuelan military.

The two countries' border is 2,200 kilometer (1,400 mile) long, difficult to access and largely lawless, with armed groups including drug traffickers, left-wing guerrillas and paramilitaries operating along it.

Caracas broke off diplomatic relations with Bogota in February after Colombia became one of the more than 50 countries to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president.

Relations between the two countries have been poor since 2017, with Colombia bearing the brunt of its neighbor's economic crisis that has seen more than 2.7 million people flee the country, according to the United Nations.

Colombia President Ivan Duque has called his counterpart Maduro a "dictator."