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Colombia and Venezuela agree to increase military presence at border

The measures are meant to "hit criminal groups' finances with the maximum force possible" to weaken their operations in the country,

Venezuela-Colombia border
Venezuela-Colombia border | Shutterstock

May 12, 2023 8:54am

Updated: May 12, 2023 8:54am

Venezuela and Colombia agreed to increase the military presence along their shared border to try to prevent informal crossings and human smuggling by criminal groups, the defense ministers of the two South American countries announced on Thursday. 

There is a security threat posed by those "who cross the border and carry out criminal activity in both Venezuelan and Colombian territory," Colombian Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez said on a Venezuelan state television broadcast after meeting in Caracas with his Venezuelan counterpart, Vladimir Padrino.

Additionally, the measures are meant to "hit criminal groups' finances with the maximum force possible" to weaken their operations in the country, Velasquez added. 

"With the border operations, we are going to get rid of terrorists, of armed groups, in all the national territory, wherever they are from, wherever they come from, whatever their name is. No group has the moral, nor has the authorization to remain in Venezuelan sovereign space and they will be fought with full force," added Padrino.

The ministers did not specify when or how many troops would be sent to the border that runs for 1,400 miles (2,200 kilometers). 

Former Colombian President Ivan Duque withdrew his country’s recognition of Nicolas Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate president, calling him a dictator. As a result, Maduro expelled all Colombian diplomats from Venezuela in February 2019, claiming that Duque sought to topple his government. 

Colombia and Venezuela re-established diplomatic relations last September after leftist president Gustavo Petro assumed the Colombian presidency. In January, the two countries reopened all of the land borders for commercial and personal purposes.

In February, Petro and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro met on the border dividing their countries to sign a trade agreement that had been suspended for four years. 

The deal "updates everything having to do with tariffs, with goods traded, (and) lays the foundations for a new dynamic, for the expansion of trade between Colombia and Venezuela," Maduro said on state television. 

“This is not only about making trade easier but also about making it easier for people to move between both countries,” Petro said during the meeting.