Venezuela’s Maduro warns of military escalation with Colombia

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro warned Wednesday of a possible “military escalation” with neighboring Colombia after Bogota accused Caracas of sheltering leftist guerrillas on its territory.

“There is an escalation of statements that could end in a military escalation on the border,” involving “the criminal forces of Colombia against Venezuela,” Maduro said in a speech to supporters.

“Everything is part of the plan of US imperialism,” he said.

The televised speech followed a complaint by Colombia on Wednesday over “repeated provocations” — the most recent of which it claimed involved around 30 military personnel crossing into its territory.

Colombia said the Venezuelan forces withdrew after it sent a helicopter with soldiers to the area in response to calls from the local community.

Bogota said in a statement that its military was “ready to defend (its) territorial integrity, while always maintaining the necessary prudence in the face of these clear and repeated provocations that aim only to incite a response to make Colombia look like the aggressor.”

The two countries’ border is 2,200 kilometer (1,400 mile) long, difficult to access and largely lawless, with armed groups including drug traffickers, left-wing guerrillas and paramilitaries operating along it.

Caracas broke off diplomatic relations with Bogota in February after Colombia became one of the more than 50 countries to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.

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