Venezuela denies Colombian charges of military incursions

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on Jan. 31 poked fun at Colombia’s expulsion of a Venezuelan soldier accused of carrying out an operation in Colombian territory, saying “only people like Rambo or the Terminator undertake solo missions.” Sgt. Juan Gómez of the Venezuelan National Guard was expelled from Colombia for “reasons of national security” Jan. 27, the same day that Colombia said that a Venezuelan helicopter violated its airspace.

According to Chávez, the soldier accidentally climbed on board a boat that turned out to be owned by petroleum smugglers, who hit the motor and sped off into Colombian territory, the Bogotá daily El Espectador reported Jan. 31. “The sergeant reacted well because he didn’t go crazy but was armed and shot out the motor,” Chávez said, adding that Gómez was then detained by Colombian soldiers when he reached the river bank.

Colombian security agency DAS maintains that Gomez entered with an AK-103 rifle, which they charge was to be used in a military operation. Colombia’s foreign ministry demanded an explanation from Caracas in the apparent airspace violation, calling the incident unacceptable. Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said the allegations are unfounded. (Colombia Reports, Feb. 1; AP, Jan. 28)

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