Colombia: 1,000 Venezuelan police have left Maduro

About 1,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces have fled to Colombia since February, giving up weapons and uniforms as they abandoned the former regime of Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, Colombian authorities said March 18.

Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released the updated number of Venezuelan police and military personnel who crossed the border, many around the time of a February 23 attempt by Venezuela’s opposition leader and interim president, Juan Guaidó, to deliver U.S.-provided humanitarian aid to his country.

The attempt failed because Venezuelan forces blocked trucks trying to cross from Colombia into Venezuela.

Boots propped up along a wall (© Christine Armario/AP Images)
Boots belonging to former members of Venezuela’s National Guard sit out to dry where several dozen military defectors are sleeping at a shelter run by a priest in Cúcuta, Colombia. (© Christine Armario/AP Images)

The defectors have received lodging, health care and legal aid, and they were accompanied by 400 family members, Colombian officials said. Colombia, the United States and about 50 other countries support Guaidó’s claim that he is the legitimate leader of Venezuela and that Maduro is illegitimate because irregularities marred his re-election last year.

Maduro’s policies have produced an ongoing economic, political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, marked by hyperinflation and a scarcity of medicine and other necessities.

More than 3 million Venezuelans have fled the country in recent years, about one-third of them finding refuge in Colombia.

This article draws on reports from the Associated Press.