CARACAS – Venezuela’s leftist incumbent Nicolas Maduro declared on Tuesday an alert along his country’s border with Colombia and ordered his troops to conduct military exercises in the area, citing the western neighbor’s alleged intention of creating a conflict between the two South American nations.
“To all military units on the border, I declare an orange alert in the face of Colombia’s threat of aggression against Venezuela and the start of military exercises from Sept. 10-28,” Maduro said at an armed forces event in Caracas.
The exercises, Maduro said, would be carried out “to prepare the entire weapons system, the operational deployment and the necessary military activity for Venezuela to preserve its security and peace”
The maneuvers are set to take place in the states of Zulia, Tachira Apure and Amazonas, which make up the 2,219 kilometers (1,379 miles) of Venezuela’s shared border with Colombia.
In addition, Maduro said he lamented the rearmament of a dissident group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla, adding that Venezuela has always wanted peace to be achieved in the civil conflict that has been raging on in the neighboring country for more than half a century.
In Maduro’s opinion, the Colombian government led by President Ivan Duque “doesn’t want peace, it wants war,” which is why he asked his own Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) to be on alert in the border areas.
“We know there is a maneuver to attempt to escalate with a series of false positives,” he said. “The Colombian government now wants a false positive to attack Venezuela and start a military conflict with our country.”
For this reason, the Chavista leader said he would enact a series of reinforcement measures, including the deployment of military force.
On Aug. 29, the ex-guerrilla fighter Ivan Marquez – who was a leading figure in the historic peace talks with the Colombian government in 2016 – announced in a 32-minute-long video that he and a group of FARC dissidents were taking up arms again to “start a new phase of the armed struggle.”
Duque said this rearmament did not signify the return of the guerrilla but rather of a “narcoterrorist” group allegedly supported by Maduro, whom Duque does not recognize as the legitimate president of Venezuela and describes as a “dictator.”
Duque added that he had talked to the leader of the Venezuelan opposition, National Assembly Speaker Juan Guaido, who has been recognized by more than 50 countries as interim president despite lacking any control over Venezuela’s armed forces and bureaucracy.
The Colombian president asked Guaido for support to round up and capture the “criminal band” of ex-FARC members.