Venezuela and Colombia have had strained relations for years, with Caracas accusing Bogota of financing and otherwise supporting political forces seeking to overthrow the Maduro government.
The Venezuelan armed forces and police have thwarted an attempted naval invasion by mercenaries attempting to enter the country by sea from neighbouring Colombia, Venezuelan Interior Minister Nestor Reverol has announced.
According to the interior minister, the mercenaries “attempted to come into the country through fast boats on the coast of Ojeda. But thanks to the fast and effective actions of our armed forces, and of the police task force, some were brought down, and others are now imprisoned,” he added.
According to the official, weapons belonging to the mercenaries have also been confiscated.
An investigation is now said to be ongoing into the incident.
Local media have reported that as many as 8 mercenaries have been killed, with two others captured.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly denounced groups receiving support from Colombia and the US, accusing them of seeking “to undermine the stability of our homeland with violent actions.” Last month, Maduro announced the mobilization of artillery in strategic areas to protect the country from incursion.
The latest escalation in tensions between Venezuela, the US and its allies comes after Washington slapped Maduro with “narco-terrorism” charges in March, and posted a $15 million reward for his capture or prosecution.
The long-running Venezuelan crisis escalated in early 2019, when opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido proclaimed himself ‘interim president’ and called on the democratically elected Maduro government to step down. Maduro has refused to do so, accusing Guiado of trying to carry out a botched coup with the aim of robbing Venezuela of its vast oil and mineral resources.