According to the Colombian government, the number of Venezuelan service members who crossed the border into Colombia and requested refugee status, as of April 13, is about 1,500. Colombia Migration General Director Christian Krüger explained during a press conference held last April that some military personnel arrive armed and in uniform, while others cross the border by alternative routes wearing civilian clothing and accompanied by their families.
Colombian officials state that the majority seek entry into Colombia through the Eastern border region. Recently, one of them was accompanied by a Bolivarian National Guard dog. According to the Colombian newspaper El Nacional, the dog had been a part of counternarcotics operations in Venezuela. The dog handler, a sergeant of the Venezuelan Army identified only as Laverde, refused to leave his companion behind.
After agreeing to an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), an unidentified Venezuelan service member who was found taking refuge in a church in Cúcuta, Colombia, explained why he left the ranks. “A lot of soldiers want to do what I did. It will have a domino effect. This will significantly impact the Venezuelan Armed Forces,” said the 29-year-old. “The Armed Forces are collapsing because there are so many corrupt officials. The professional service members are fed up. We couldn’t continue on like slaves, so we are freeing ourselves,” he added.
Brazil is another country receiving more and more Venezuelan service members on a daily basis, who are trying to escape the regime of Nicolás Maduro. After crossing into Brazil many service members are asking their former colleagues in uniform to disobey the orders of the Maduro regime. “Align yourselves with the people, because they are the ones who are starving,” Venezuelan Army Sergeant Carlos Eduardo Zapata told journalists during a group interview after entering Brazil, in February 2019.
Sgt. Zapata was one of three Venezuelan sergeants who first crossed the border into Brazil from Venezuela. He said his nephew had died five days earlier due to the lack of medication. “We, the professional soldiers, want our comrades to unite. If they can’t do anything in Venezuela, they should come to Brazil or go to Colombia,” Sgt. Zapata said.
With support from Parliament, Juan Guiadó, the interim president of Venezuela, has called for members of the Armed Forces to sever ties with the Maduro regime.