Caracas, May 19, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan Information Minister Andrés Izarra, confirmed that the government has proof of that sixty Colombian troops made an illegal military incursion into Venezuelan territory last Friday. “We have photos and other materials that demonstrate the military incursion into our territory,” Izarra assured on Sunday after Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, denied the claims.
“There was no incursion,” said Santos in comments broadcast on Colombian radio on Sunday. “I looked into it and they were not doing anything,” Santos said of the Colombian troops.
“It appears that Minister Santos is not well informed of what his troops are doing,” Izarra countered.
On Saturday Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro denounced through an official note of protest to the Colombian government that sixty Colombian troops had illegally entered 800 meters into Venezuelan territory. The incursion occurred Friday, May 16, in the Los Bancos sector in the municipality of Páez in the border state of Apure.
Maduro said the group was under the command of Colombian Army Sub-lieutenant Jhonny Ocampo Jurado, from the Cubará Military Base in the Colombian department of Arauca. Once they were intercepted the Colombian troops were forced to leave Venezuelan soil immediately.
“The commission of 60 men from the Colombian Army, under the command of someone who identified himself as Sub-lieutenant Jhonny Ocampo Jurado, assigned to Special Battalion Energético and Vial No 1, General Juan José Negro Velasco, from the Cubará Military Base, in the department of Arauca, Colombia, was intercepted at the coordinates N - 07° 02' 12,5'' - W - 072° 02' 6,4'', 800 meters from the frontier line in Venezuelan territory and was required to leave immediately,” the communiqué read.
The Venezuelan government characterized the incursion as an “act of provocation” that “aims to deliberately destabilize the region” and called on Colombia to immediately “cease these violations of international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Venezuela.”
The Venezuelan denunciation comes two and a half months after the Colombian military carried out an illegal bombing raid on a camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in Ecuadorian territory on March 1, killing twenty-five people and violating the sovereignty of this country. The incident provoked the break off of diplomatic relations between Quito and Bogota and sparked a regional crisis.
Tensions increased further over claims by the Colombian government that documents allegedly found on computers belonging to the FARC showed links between the Venezuelan and Ecuadorian governments and the guerrillas – claims that both governments have vehemently denied.
An investigation into the computers by the International Police Organization (INTERPOL), found no evidence that the computers had been tampered with, despite more than four thousand files being dated later than March 1 (when the Colombian government says the computers were seized).
However Izarra said the INTERPOL report did not link the Venezuelan government, “in any manner with the accusations they [the Colombian government] have been making supposedly based on that computer.”
“In reality they are accusations empty of content, without real backing, that they are generating in order to create a matrix of opinion to condition the public for other political and military actions with the aim of destabilizing the region and maintaining a sustained attack against Venezuela,” he declared.
Former Venezuelan vice-president José Vicente Rangel argued it was “urgent” for the Venezuelan government to redefine its political, diplomatic, economic, and security relations with Colombia and said that the deterioration of bilateral ties was a result of the “media show” by the Uribe government.
In a press conference today Maduro confirmed that Venezuela has decided to activate diplomatic mechanisms to resolve the situation after speaking to his Colombian counterpart Fernando Araújo.
“We have decided to activate mechanisms for the solution of border controversies that exist between both countries to clarify and resolve the situation,” said Maduro.
“We have taken the initiative to deescalate, in a diplomatic manner, this affair which we classify as a provocation by sectors that want to provoke minor incidents, then escalate them in order to convert them into an excuse for bigger incidents and an armed conflict between our countries, doing the dirty work of the imperialist plan to destabilize and fill our region with violence,” he added.
Maduro also said the Venezuelan government, over the past few weeks, has warned of the existence of a plan by sectors of the Colombian government, in coordination with sectors of the US government, to escalate an armed conflict against Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolution, as the process of progressive change underway in the country is known.
“These events form part of a general framework of provocation against our country,” he said. Venezuelan has various options in dealing with the situation he warned, however, “following the pacifist doctrine of the Venezuelan government and in line with respect for international law and bilateral agreements, as well as being clear that there is a sector of the Colombian government that is committed to violence and wants to escalate a plan of confrontation… we consciously activate the mechanism of a formal protest.”
This sector of the Colombian government is being incited by the U.S., Maduro said, “to participate in a process of destabilization against the region and against the new democratic and progressive leaderships and transformations that have been consolidating during the first decade of the 21st Century.”