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Border tensions running high between Venezuela, Columbia

30 August 2015 22:39



Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has visited the northeastern city of Cucuta near Venezuela’s frontier amid rising border tensions between the two South American neighbors.

“I am here to make sure our fellow Colombians get the services they need,” Santos said on Saturday during his visit to the restive border city, where hundreds of Colombian nationals formerly living in Venezuela have taken refuge following the eruption of conflict between the two sides.

“We are now concentrating on attending to the humanitarian needs that this situation has generated,” he stated, adding that his government is determined tackle the border dispute “with firmness, but with dialogue and diplomacy.”

The visit came a day after Venezuela ordered the deployment of 3,000 troops to the western state of Tachira near the Colombian border.

Venezuelan members of a special police unit stand guard in San Antonio near the border with Colombia, on August 28, 2015. ©AFP

The soldiers are tasked with cleaning “the region of paramilitaries, criminals, kidnappers and drug dealers,” Germany’s DPA news agency quoted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as saying.

Meanwhile, US State Department Spokesman John Kirby called on Bogota and Caracas “to resolve the dispute diplomatically” and “address the situation in appropriate multilateral fora.”

On August 19, unidentified assailants attacked Venezuelan soldiers who were performing an anti-smuggling operation in the city of San Antonio in Tachira State, leaving four people injured.

Maduro blamed the incident on Colombian paramilitaries, ordering the closure of the country’s border with Colombia and declaring a 60-day state of emergency in parts of the frontier.

Colombians carry their belongings as they arrive in Cucuta, Colombia from Venezuela on August 28, 2015. ©AFP

Reports say Venezuela has deported 1,097 Colombian migrants over the conflict, while thousands of others left the restive area voluntarily amid the escalation of tensions.

The two sides also recalled their ambassadors for consultations following the dispute.

The 2,200-kilometer (1,400-mile) border between the two South American countries is plagued with guerrilla and smuggling activities.

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