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Colombian military calls Venezuela’s invasion fears ‘ridiculous’

Venezuela's Chief Prosecutor Tarek William Saab talks to the media during a news conference in Caracas

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela’s Chief Prosecutor Tarek William Saab talks to the media during a news conference, in Caracas, Venezuela, January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello

By Anggy Polanco

CUCUTA, Colombia (Reuters) – Venezuelan accusations that Colombia has been eyeing military action against its crisis-hit neighbor were “ridiculous,” the head of Colombia’s military forces said on Tuesday, during a visit to the border area.

Venezuela’s powerful state prosecutor Tarek Saab said on Monday that Bogota was plotting to attack the oil-rich nation.

“They are planning nothing less than a repetition of bygone times, like bombings, invasions and occupations by blood and fire, of a peaceful country like Venezuela,” Saab said during a speech broadcast on state television.

Colombia’s General Alberto Jose Mejia, visiting the border town of Cucuta that has seen heavy inflows of migrants from Venezuela in recent months, dismissed the comments.

“Just thinking about that possibility is ridiculous,” Mejia told reporters. He walked down the Simon Bolivar bridge linking the two countries and greeted Venezuelan migrants.

U.S. President Donald Trump last year threatened military intervention in Venezuela, but Latin American countries have strongly opposed the idea of any such action. Venezuela’s government has seized on the threat as evidence that Washington, its ideological foe, is seeking to overthrow leftist President Nicolas Maduro.

Colombia, which shares a large and porous border with Venezuela, is bearing the brunt of a growing exodus of Venezuelans fleeing malnutrition, disease and hyperinflation.

Last week, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said he would impose stricter migratory controls, suspend new daily entry cards for Venezuelans, and deploy thousands of new security personnel along the frontier.

(Additional reporting by Vivian Sequera, Writing by Alexandra Ulmer, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

 

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