Venezuelan military planes accused of violating airspace

Bogota, Sep 14 (IANS) Colombia’s ministry of defence on Sunday said two Venezuelan military airplanes illegally overflew the country’s airspace Saturday afternoon.

“The two Venezuelan military aircraft initially entered 2.9 kilometers inside Colombian airspace, flying over the area of Majayura (in northern Guajira department), quickly disappearing in the direction of Castilletes,” the ministry said in a statement, referring to a military base located along the border with Venezuela.

“The two Venezuelan military aircraft then also flew over a national army military unit in La Flor,” Guajira, or some 2.27 km inside Colombian airspace, before again “rapidly flying back out back towards Castilletes,” according to the ministry.

Colombia reinforced security in the border department of Guajira following the incident, Colombia’s Caracol news network reported, adding the government plans to request an explanation.

The two countries have been locked in a diplomatic scuffle since Venezuela closed major border crossing points last month and deported over a thousand of Colombians in a bid to fight a thriving cross-border smuggling trade.

Many of those Colombians are refugees fleeing decades of violence from Latin America’s longest-running civil war. The United Nations in Colombia has called for the two nations to dialogue to avoid aggravating the humanitarian crisis on their shared border.

Some 19,952 people have crossed the border at random points along the river that runs between the two countries since the bridges were closed off by the Venezuelan military guard, according to the regional UN office.

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