The presidents of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, and Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, recalled their respective ambassadors for consultations regarding the border crisis between both countries due to the massive smuggling into Colombia and Colombian paramilitaries crossing over into Venezuela.
Santos met with the Colombian Ambassador to Venezuela Ricardo Lozano over the tense situation unfolding in the border region of the two countries. No further details of the meeting were made public.
Following Santos’ meeting with Lozano, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez announced she had called for a meeting with the country’s ambassador to Colombia, Ivan Rincon.
Rodriguez regretted that the progress made with her Colombian counterpart, Maria Angela Holguin, in Cartagena, Colombia, has been hampered by the “pride of authorities.” Both diplomatic officials had agreed on impforming a pljointly fight crime border.
The Venezuelan foreign minister also said the relations with Colombia would be revised given “the aggressions our people suffer due to the paramilitarism and the economic war.”
El Tiempo reported that Santos was responding to the deportation of several Colombians by Venezuela, which he considered “unacceptable behavior.”
Furthermore, the Colombian president ordered his Foreign Minister, Maria Angela Holguin, to call a special meeting of foreign ministers of Unasur to “tell the world what is happening.”
Earlier Thursday, speaking to a pro-government women’s conference, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro confirmed Venezuelan authorities had captured three heads of paramilitary organizations as part of a border security operation that began this month. “We captured two heads of paramilitary organizations in El Tigre in the state of Anzoategui,” Maduro told the crowd.
Maduro also hit back at Santos, who had criticized Venezuela’s move to tackle criminal groups and smuggling through the border.
“They have tricked you President Santos … everything you have said is false, I have the videos, the testimonies and they have tricked you, President Santos,” Maduro said.
Last Friday, Maduro, declared a state of exception, closing the border to Colombia and dispatching military personnel after three Venezuelan soldiers were wounded by Colombian paramilitaries, who have allegedly been running illegal smuggling and prostitution operations from the zone.
Siguiendo instrucciones del presidente @NicolasMaduro hemos llamado a consulta a nuestro Embajador en la República de Colombia, Iván Rincón— Delcy Rodríguez (@DrodriguezVen) August 28, 2015
In August, Venezuelan authorities launched Operation of Liberation and Protection of the People, which looks to crack down on smuggling and paramilitary activity, particularly along Venezuela’s border with Colombia.
President Nicolas Maduro has warned as many as 30 paramilitary groups are operating in Venezuela, and has vowed to take a hard line on armed groups. The operation has also lead to the deportation of roughly 1,000 undocumented Colombians.