Venezuela charges Colombian military incursion

Bogotá May 18 rejected charges from Venezuela that 60 Colombian soldiers had entered its territory in what Caracas called a provocation aimed at destabilizing the region. “There has been no incursion,” Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos told local radio, saying a river in the area (the Arauca) would have prevented troops crossing. “It would have been practically impossible for it to happen as they say.” But Venezuelan Information Minister Andrés Izarra said he had photos and other “graphic materials” that prove the incursion took place.

Venezuela said the incursion occurred May 16, a day after President Hugo Chávez said he would review diplomatic and trade ties with Colombia following an Interpol probe that helped reinforce charges that he supports Colombia’s FARC guerrillas. The official Venezuelan statement said the incursion took place at Los Bancos, Páez municipality, Apure state, across from the Colombian municipality of Cubará, Boyacá department. Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro, in a rare written protest, demanded Colombia “immediately cease these violations of international law.”(Reuters; NYT, La Patria, Manizales, Caldas, May 19)

See our last posts on Colombia and Venezuela.

  1. US Navy aircraft violates Venezuelan airspace
    Not looking too good, is it? Reuters, May 19:

    CARACAS – A U.S. Navy jet violated Venezuelan airspace around two small Caribbean islands over the weekend in what the South American country said was a provocation coordinated with neighboring Colombia…

    The Pentagon said a Navy aircraft on a counternarcotics mission had navigation problems that led it to stray into Venezuelan airspace on Saturday.

    The U.S. ambassador in Caracas was being summoned to explain the incident, Venezuela’s foreign minister said.

    “In the event a U.S. aircraft unintentionally enters into the sovereign airspace of another nation, its crew is required to take swift action to exit the airspace and report the incident to their immediate chain of command, which this aircrew apparently did,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman.

    The anti-Washington government of President Hugo Chavez said the flight, which took the jet close to the OPEC member’s presidential retreat on the island of La Orchila, was a provocation after Venezuela accused Colombian troops of crossing its border.

    “This was a conscious action by the U.S. Navy,” Defense Minister Gustavo Rangel said at a news conference. “This is just the latest step in a series of provocations.”

    Rangel said such incidents probably had happened in the past, but now Venezuela has equipment to detect airspace violations in the area.

    The U.S. warplane penetrated Venezuelan airspace around La Orchila and another island about 80 miles from the country’s mainland, Rangel said.

    Venezuela’s air traffic control contacted the aircraft after it entered Venezuela’s airspace. The jet identified itself and told the Venezuelan authorities a possible navigation error had occurred, the Pentagon said.

    A U.S. defense official said the plane was a Viking S-3, a jet often used in anti-drugs operations to track and attack boats.