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567 Venezuelan soldiers defected to Colombia

CARACAS, Venezuela – More than 500 Venezuelan soldiers have fled President Nicolás Maduro’s crumbling regime for neighboring Colombia, the Colombian migration authority reported Thursday.
The wave of desertions comes as opposition leader Juan Guaidó continues to seek support from the armed forces, which are one of the foundations of Maduro’s authority.
Colombia has counted 567 defectors since violent clashes between security forces and activists trying to bring US aid to Venezuela, according to CNN and Colombia’s El Tiempo.
Venezuelans are living through one of the world worst’s economic crises under Maduro’s socialist regime, and are struggling with shortages of food and medicine.
Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have called on Maduro to step down, saying that his presidency is unconstitutional and fraudulent. Guaidó, the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly, has declared himself interim president, on the grounds that Maduro’s reign is illegitimate.
Many saw Guaidó’s attempt to transport aid over the Colombian-Venezuelan border at the weekend as a play to test the loyalty of Maduro’s soldiers.
The Venezuelan armed forces are an important power base for Maduro. Military leaders in Venezuela publicly backed him last month.
Guaidó has claimed that he had met some members of the military in secret, implying that the military’s solidarity with Maduro is not as solid as it may seem.
The soldiers who left for Colombia are mostly from middle and lower ranks, who are more affected by the country’s hyperinflation and shortages, according to The Associated Press.
They also work with faulty equipment and are monitored by intelligence services, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) reported.
Amanda Lapo, a defense and military analyst at the IISS, said that it is not yet certain that increasing defections are a threat to Maduro.
“The defections don’t appear to be on a senior enough level to undermine Maduro,” she told Business Insider.
Venezuela’s military, which employs between 95,000 and 150,000 active soldiers, has wide reach in the country. But the power is concentrated among high-ranking officials, who hold important government positions and control influential companies.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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