Venezuela has severed relations with Colombia and has expelled all diplomats from its embassy, President Nicolas Maduro declared during a rally in Caracas on February 23.
“Patience is exhausted, I can’t bear it anymore, we can’t keep putting up with Colombian territory being used for attacks against Venezuela. For that reason, I have decided to break all political and diplomatic relations with Colombia’s fascist government,” the President said noting that the Colombian diplomatic staff has 24 hours to leave Venezuela.
The announcement followed a decision to close the border with Colombia in the run-up to attempts by the opposition to deliver trucks of ‘humanitarian aid’ from Colombia, in defiance of Caracas.
A part of the border where a forced crossing might take place has been the scene of a tense confrontation between opposition activists and security forces. The most intense clashes took place in the border town of Urena.
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) February 23, 2019
According to reports, at least 4 people died and 24 received injures as result of the clashes between opposition supporters and security forces. Opposition supporters also stole a bus, but it was burned down.
VIDEO: Security forces use tear gas to disperse Venezuelan protesters gathered at the Venezuela-Colombia border pic.twitter.com/5qVZCQ7En7
— AFP news agency (@AFP) February 23, 2019
Separately on the same day, 3 members of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) defected to the Colombian side after driving their vehicle towards a security cordon on the Simon Bolivar bridge. Venezuelan state media said that the defection had been organized by the opposition.
The GNB has also closed all 3 bridges connecting the country with Colombia and has been building up troops on the border. The development came amid the growing concerns that the US may use the ‘humanitarian aid’ delivery standoff to justify a military action against Venezuela.
President Maduro previously said that Venezuela would also close the border with Brazil.
#23Feb|| Cumpliendo instrucciones de nuestro CJ @NicolasMaduro, Cmdte CEOFANB AJ @CeballosIchaso ordenó al Sistema Defensivo Territorial #FANB despliegue operacional en la frontera colombo venezolana para resguardar la paz y seguridad del pueblo tras cierre de la frontera. pic.twitter.com/xRBXpXstEP
— CEOFANB (@ceofanb) February 23, 2019
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