• Colombia, Venezuela recall ambassadors

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    FORCED OUT  Colombians leaving Venezuela with their belongings cross the bordering Tachira River to arrive in Cucuta, Colombia, on August 27. Hundreds of Colombians are fleeing Venezuela, opting to leave the country with their belongings rather than be deported empty-handed like more than 1,000 people sent home in an escalating border crisis. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the border between Tachira and the Colombian department of Norte de Santander closed last week in response to an attack by unidentified assailants on a military patrol, which wounded a civilian and three soldiers on an anti-smuggling operation. AFP PHOTO

    FORCED OUT
    Colombians leaving Venezuela with their belongings cross the bordering Tachira River to arrive in Cucuta, Colombia, on August 27. Hundreds of Colombians are fleeing Venezuela, opting to leave the country with their belongings rather than be deported empty-handed like more than 1,000 people sent home in an escalating border crisis. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the border between Tachira and the Colombian department of Norte de Santander closed last week in response to an attack by unidentified assailants on a military patrol, which wounded a civilian and three soldiers on an anti-smuggling operation. AFP PHOTO

    BOGOTA: Colombia and Venezuela recalled their ambassadors on Thursday for consultations, amid mounting tensions that began nearly a week ago when Caracas closed off their shared border.

    Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro made the move to indefinitely close the frontier last Friday, declaring a state of emergency in part of the border region over an attack that wounded four people.

    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Thursday that his nation “wanted to tell the world… what had happened, because it was totally unacceptable.”

    He said he made the decision to recall his ambassador after Venezuela failed to comply with an agreement for a Colombian official to visit the border town where the aggressions allegedly took place.

    Santos also said he had asked his foreign minister to convene an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers from South American regional security bloc UNASUR.

    Shortly thereafter, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez announced that Caracas was recalling its ambassador to Colombia for consultations.

    “Following instructions from @NicolasMaduro, we have recalled our ambassador to Colombia, Ivan Rincon,” she said on Twitter.

    After closing the border, the Venezuelan government launched mass deportations, unleashing what Colombian Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo has decried as “a humanitarian tragedy.”

    According to the latest official report, 1,097 people have been deported from Venezuela, and some 6,000 people have left voluntarily.

    Tensions run high along the 2,200-kilometer porous border, rife with guerrilla and smuggling activity. The two countries almost went to war in 2008.

    Maduro initially closed the border for just 72 hours, before extending the closure indefinitely and declaring a state of emergency in the western state of Tachira, a hotbed of opposition to his leftist government.

    Venezuelan authorities said two assailants on a motorcycle fired on a patrol that was on a counter-smuggling mission in the town of San Antonio del Tachira, wounding three soldiers and a civilian.

    AFP

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