Venezuela mobilizes forces to Colombia border
CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela deployed tanks and air and sea forces toward the Colombian border on Wednesday in its first major military mobilization in a crisis that has raised fears for regional stability.
Venezuela’s military said it started sending 10 tank battalions toward the border and activated its air force and navy. Military analysts estimate such a mobilization could include more than 200 tanks.
The action escalated tensions over Colombia’s weekend raid to kill rebels inside another South American neighbor, Ecuador, which Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, an ally of leftist Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, said could spark war.
While Ecuador and Venezuela have moved soldiers toward their borders with Colombia, Wednesday’s movements were the first signs of heavy firepower being mobilized.
Colombia lambasted its neighbors for harboring FARC guerrillas, but said it would not deploy extra forces.
Governments worldwide urged the nations to defuse tensions as Venezuela and the United States blamed each other for the intensifying crisis.
“Our movement is totally defensive, fortifying our border posts due to the threat. … They are war, we are peace,” Chavez said at a news conference in Caracas with Ecuador’s Correa, who is touring the region to lobby against Colombia.
The crisis pits OPEC nations Venezuela and Ecuador against Colombia, which receives billions of dollars in U.S. military aid and has received public backing from President George W. Bush in the crisis. Continued…
10 Battallions? To invade a rugged mountainous country? You’re gonna need a bigger boat…