Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuelan military jets 'entered Colombian airspace'

Venezuelan soldiers patrol the Colombian border Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Some 3,000 Venezuelan troops have been deployed near the border with Colombia

Colombia has said that two Venezuelan military jets entered its airspace without warning or authorisation.

The planes encroached into Colombian airspace twice on Saturday morning, according to the defence ministry.

They reportedly flew over a border military base in the Alta Guajira region before returning to Venezuela.

Colombian officials have demanded an explanation from Venezuela, which has yet to comment. Relations between the two countries have been tense.

"Initially the Venezuelan military planes entered 2.9km (1.8 miles) into Colombian airspace," a statement from Colombia's Ministry of Defence said.

The jets then returned to Venezuela and crossed into Colombian airspace again, "flying over a military base in the La Flor region".

The planes went 2.3km (1.4 miles) west of the border before flying back towards Castilletes, on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, the statement added.

Border operations

On 19 August, Venezuela closed most crossings along the long, porous border with Colombia and launched a major anti-smuggling operation.

More than 1,000 Colombians living across the border were expelled for alleged involvement either with smuggling gangs or paramilitary groups. Thousands of other Colombians fled fearing reprisals.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The Venezuelan and Colombian foreign ministers held talks with their Ecuadorian counterpart on Saturday

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos criticised his Venezuelan counterpart's unilateral decision and recalled his ambassador to Caracas for consultations.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro reciprocated the gesture hours later.

The Colombian and Venezuelan foreign ministers, Maria Angela Holguin and Delcy Rodriguez, met in Ecuador on Saturday to try to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

A statement said the talks had gone well, paving the way for a summit between Mr Santos and Mr Maduro in the near future.

Ms Holguin said, ahead of the meeting, that Venezuela must agree to reunite hundreds of families separated by the border closure.

Venezuela has reported major success in its anti-smuggling operation.

It said its economy had been suffering with the activities of gangs that operated in the border zone.

For many years, subsidised items from Venezuela, including cheap petrol, have been sold for much higher prices on the Colombian side of the border.

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