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Colombia steps up military presence at Venezuelan border

RIA Novosti


MEXICO, December 20 (RIA Novosti) - The Colombian government has announced its plans to build a new military base near its border with Venezuela as part of a program aimed at stepping up military presence in the area.

Defense Minister Gabriel Silva said on Friday the $1,5-million base, which is to be located on the Guajira peninsula near the city of Nazaret, would have up to 1,000 troops.

The governmental plan also stipulates the deployment of six aircraft squadrons across the country, including two on the border with Venezuela.

Colombian Army Commander General Oscar Gonzalez said the annouonced measures would help allay Colombian people's fears sparked by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez's threats.

Ties between Venezuela and Colombia deteriorated last August after the U.S. signed a deal with Bogota allowing US forces to run anti-drug operations from Colombian bases.

Hugo Chavez has criticized the deal and called for the Venezuelan people and army to prepare for a war.

Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Argentina and Ecuador have also expressed concerns over the U.S.-Colombian agreement.

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