Venezuela starts military exercises along Colombia border
CARACAS (AP) — President Nicolas Maduro launched extended military exercises along Venezuela’s border with Colombia on Tuesday, drawing Washington’s attention amid rising friction between the South American neighbors.
Maduro has come under mounting pressure from Colombia and the United States, which are among more than 50 nations that back opposition politician Juan Guaido’s bid to oust the socialist president. They contend Maduro’s re-election in 2018 was bogus.
Tensions spiked recently when Colombia and Venezuela accused each other of harboring hostile armed groups within their borders that are trying to overthrow the neighboring government. In response, Maduro put soldiers on alert and summoned his defense council, saying the machinery of war has started against Venezuela.
“The moment has come to defend our sovereignty and national peace by deploying our defense resources in full force,” Maduro said on Twitter.
Roughly 150,000 military personnel will conduct drills through Sept. 28, said Remigio Ceballos, strategic commander of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, who is overseeing operations.
An array of tanks, missile launchers and aircraft were staged at the Garcia de Hevia International Airport near the border. A military band played as the vehicles filed out.
“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.