Venezuela has launched extended military drills along the border with Colombia in an effort to prepare for any foreign invasion, amid rising tensions between Caracas and Bogota.
The Venezuelan army deployed 150,000 troops, tanks, and missile carriers around La Fria airport in the border state of Tachira on Tuesday, said the armed forces’ Strategic Operational Commander Remigio Ceballos.
The exercises — expected to continue for several weeks — are “related to security, exploration and the interception of any invasion of Venezuelan territory,” he said.
“We respect the armed forces around the world, but we are not afraid of anyone,” Ceballos added.
The deployment came a week after President Nicolas Maduro ordered the commander of the armed forces “to declare an alert... in the face of the threatened aggression by Colombia toward Venezuela.”
The tense relations between Maduro and Colombian far-right President Ivan Duque grew even worse earlier his month when Duque accused Maduro of providing “shelter and support” to Colombia’s rebel group FARC.
FARC recently took up arms once again after three years of peace with the Colombian government.
Maduro, however, denied the allegation, saying that the Colombian government was “using unfounded accusations to threaten Venezuela and provoke a military conflict with our country.”
In a reaction to the military exercises, Colombian Vice-President Marta Lucia Ramirez said the military was prepared for “any external attacks.”
“We call on all Colombians for calm, knowing that we possess a sufficiently equipped and capable public force,” she said.
Meanwhile, US special representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams said Colombia would have Washington’s full support in the event of a military invasion by Venezuela.
“I hope [the Venezuelan military exercises] are just a political act without any security or military meaning,” he said in Brussels. “I hope [the armed forces of Venezuela] are not crazy enough to engage in any kind of attacks on Colombia, and it is certainly the case that Colombia will have full American support if that happens.”
The US has imposed several rounds of sanctions against Venezuela to oust Maduro and replace him with an opposition figure.
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