Venezuelan service members made an unauthorized entry into Colombian territory on May 6, 2019, in Chinita, south of Cúcuta. Alerted by the community, the Colombian Army sent helicopters that flew over and dispersed the Venezuelan troops, which quickly left the area. The Colombian Army 2nd Division’s 30th Brigade deployed to the area to take control and maintain contact with the population.
Venezuelan service members carried out search and surveillance activities for 20 minutes, according to information provided to the authorities. From the onset, the Colombian government and military commanders acted cautiously to avoid provocation.
"Elements of the Venezuelan National Guard entered that area in Cúcuta allegedly in pursuit of fuel smugglers," Army General Luis Navarro, commander of the Colombian Military Forces, told the press. "Security coordination is very complex, as there is no dialogue with the Venezuelan authorities. That makes it impossible to verify this version."
"Our troops are deployed [on the border] in a defensive, dissuasive posture, avoiding any incident, without provoking anyone," Army General Jesús Martínez, commander of the Colombian Army, told the press. "The troops acted in accordance with the protocols defined for this border situation."
The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said intentions behind these kinds of actions were quite clear. "We want to relay to the international community our concern for these kinds of provocations from the illegitimate Nicolás Maduro regime, which affect the community in the border area," the ministry said in a press release.
The Venezuelan strategy of ordering operations in border communities to generate an armed response isn’t new. During the dictatorship of Hugo Chávez (1999-2013), many ambushes were carried out without repercussions.
In 2018, Venezuelan troops conducted several incursions in Colombia. In August, 30 service members and two helicopters flew over Tibú airspace, in the Norte de Santander department, without authorization. In September, another 20 troops entered Vichada, a department that shares a border with the Venezuelan state of Apure. They returned to Tibú in November.
So far, the outcome of these offensive operations has been the same. "We always exercise caution in the face of these clear and recurring intimidations that only want to create a response to make Colombia look like an aggressor," the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.