President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro has launched extended military exercises along the country’s border with Colombia on September 10. It has drawn the attention of the US in the middle of the rising friction between the South American neighbours.
Maduro has come under intense pressure from Colombia and the United States, which are among the 50-plus nations that back Opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s leader. They contend that Maduro’s re-election in 2018 was bogus. "The moment has come to defend our sovereignty and national peace by deploying our defence resources in full force," Maduro said on Twitter.
Tensions spiked recently when Colombia and Venezuela accused each other of harbouring hostile armed groups within their borders that are trying to overthrow the neighbouring government. In response, Maduro put soldiers on alert and summoned his defence council, saying the machinery of war has started against Venezuela. Remigio Ceballos, strategic commander of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, who is overseeing operations said that Roughly 150,000 military personnel will conduct drills through September 28. “This is an operation to defend our national territory,” said Ceballos, adding that the armed forces are on the watch to intercept attacks from Colombia, the U.S. or any other threat.
An exhibition of tanks, missile launchers and aircraft were staged at the Garcia de Hevia International airport along the border. A military bank played as the vehicles filed out. On Tuesday, officials in the United States expressed support for Colombia during this rough patch of relations with Venezuela. The two countries have a shared history and their border stretches nearly 2,200 kilometres.
Carlos Trujillo, the U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States, said it was “totally unacceptable” that Maduro’s “illegitimate government” has threatened the region’s security and peace. “Colombia’s allies will do everything possible to help one of the best allies we’ve had — not only in the Americas but in the world,” Trujillo added during a conference call with the media. The U.S. special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, had a more direct response. “If there are cross-border attacks from Venezuela to Colombia, we can expect Colombians to react,” Abrams said. “And obviously, we would fully support Colombia in that situation.”
(With inputs from PTI)