Colombia is considering giving refugee status to three military officials from Venezuela the neighboring country wants to try for desertion.
The desertion and subsequent asylum request in Bogota further increases tensions between Colombia and Venezuela, that finds itself increasingly isolated as it faces a major political crisis.
While Venezuela’s foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, asked her Colombian counterpart Maria Angela Holguin through Venezuelan media not to accept the asylum request, but to no avail.
Holguin’s office on Wednesday told local press it had accepted the requests and is currently verifying the soldiers’ claims they would be politically persecuted on return.
The three officials last week published a video in which they formally declared their rebellion against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
According to the Colombian Foreign Ministry, it is verifying whether the soldiers’ claim is legit and has given the soldiers three months to come up with evidence supporting their claim they would be made political prisoners.
Maduro’s government has come under increased pressure both domestically and internationally.
Dozens of people were killed in both anti- and pro-government protests throughout the country since last week.
Colombia has long tried to stay out of Venezuela’s domestic problems, but broke with that policy after Venezuela’s National Assembly temporarily was stripped of its powers.
Since then, tensions between the two countries have increased, partly because of Venezuelan military incursions into Colombian territory.
While sharing a long joint history, the two countries have been at odds especially after the 1999 election of late President Hugo Chavez’ whose “Bolivarian Revolution” sought to improve the living conditions of the country’s poor.
While strengthening ties to Communist Cuba and following an opposition coup in 2002, the socialist government radicalized and increasingly imposed a state-run economy.
Following the death of Chavez in 2013, and the election of Maduro and the collapse of oil prices in 2014, the situation in Venezuela quickly worsened.
According to the country’s opposition, the president is converting the republic into a dictatorship. Maduro has claimed the opposition seeks to topple his democratically elected government.