Venezuela Protests ‘Inconsistent’ Accusations of Colombian Border Incursion

Bogotá claimed two Venezuelan soldiers had illegally crossed the border to search a civilian boat earlier this month.

By Paul Dobson
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The Negro River in the Amazon divides Venezuela and Colombia. (M. Gutierrez / DPA)
The Negro River in the Amazon divides Venezuela and Colombia. (M. Gutierrez / DPA)

Mérida, August 30, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry has rejected allegations from its Colombian counterpart concerning a supposed military “incursion.”

According to Bogotá, two Venezuelan soldiers crossed into Colombian territory through the Negro River in the Amazonas border region on August 24 to search a civilian boat carrying merchandise.

A Colombian Armed Forces communiqué described the incident, which reportedly involved a verbal standoff before the Venezuelan soldiers withdrew, as an “attack against Colombian citizens who were freely transiting” on the river.

In response, Caracas published a rebuttal on Sunday, insisting that the Colombian account was “inconsistent,” as well as reaffirming Venezuela’s commitment to a “safe and stable shared border.”

The Foreign Ministry also accused its Colombian counterpart of looking to “raise tensions between the countries [by] generating false conflicts in acts which could have been resolved by local authority coordination.” It went on to point out the “unwillingness of the Colombian government to establish communication channels” to safeguard the border zones.

The porous Colombo-Venezuelan border has been the focus of a number of localized conflicts in recent months, including Venezuelan military operations against Colombian “armed irregular groups” in Apure state in April which left several dead on both sides.

In May, a Colombian commando unit also illegally crossed into Venezuela to assassinate Colombian revolutionary Jesús Santrich in Zulia state. The “serious violation of national sovereignty” was not condemned by Caracas. Analyst Danna Urdaneta has claimed that a “blanket of silence” was placed over the incident to avoid further embarrassment for the Venezuelan Armed Forces which failed to prevent the incursion.

Apart from thousands of bi-national residents, the 2219-km border is home to a number of smuggling groups which have traditionally taken advantage of price disparities between both Colombian and Venezuelan goods and currencies to generate large profits.

One of the main products smuggled out of Venezuela historically has been government-subsidized fuel. According to Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab, authorities have confiscated over 113,000 liters of fuel in anti-smuggling efforts so far this year.

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Attorney General Tarek William Saab has led the fight against corruption and smuggling. (CorreoDelOrinoco)
Attorney General Tarek William Saab has led the fight against corruption and smuggling. (CorreoDelOrinoco)

In a press conference last week, the public official likewise informed that 498 citizens have been arrested for contraband during the first six months of 2021.

Venezuela continues to suffer from grave fuel shortages largely caused by a 2019 US-led embargo against the industry and the persecution of third party firms trading or transporting Venezuelan fuel. While queues at the gas pumps have shortened in recent days, shortages in the increasingly dollarized stations continue to hinder agriculture and industry.

“This type of person [smugglers] is an enemy of society. We will always act against them within the framework of the Constitution,” Saab told reporters last week.

The Attorney General’s comments came days before a rare interview with hard-right Argentinean news outlet Infobae.

During the questioning, Saab defended his office’s efforts to enforce human rights, highlighting that 554 public officials have been charged with abuses since 2017. The Attorney General additionally stressed the cooperation between his office and the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and offered his backing to the ongoing negotiations between the government and opposition in Mexico.

Finally, he made reference to Venezuela’s diaspora community, claiming that “The current economic situation in Venezuela has improved this year. I invite all those Venezuelans who are outside the country to return (….) to their country so that here we may all have the opportunities and be able to fight together for a better future.”

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