Colombia and Venezuela have recalled their ambassadors for consultations amid an increasingly bitter border dispute.
The diplomatic moves on Thursday came as government supporters in Caracas prepared to rally in support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's crackdown on Colombian migrants, smugglers, and paramilitary groups operating in the border region.
The spat erupted a week ago when Maduro shut a major border crossing after three army officers on an anti-smuggling patrol were shot and wounded, a crime he blamed on Colombian paramilitaries. He also declared a state of emergency in six western cities and deported more than 1,000 Colombian migrants. He later closed another border crossing.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos railed against the mass deportations and a meeting of the two countries' foreign ministers on Wednesday failed to ease tensions.
In a televised address on Thursday, Santos said he had recalled the country's ambassador from Venezuela, complaining that Venezuelan authorities had not let Colombia's Ombudsman enter the border city of San Antonio del Tachira to observe the humanitarian situation there.
Santos also called for an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations and the Organization of American States to discuss what he said was an "unacceptable" situation along the border, the Associated Press news agency reported.
"We want to tell the world what is happening," he said.
The diplomatic protest by Santos came hours after Maduro appeared on national TV in Venezuela and accused his counterpart of undermining reconciliation efforts by telling lies. Until then, Maduro had centred his verbal attacks on Santos' archrival and predecessor, Alvaro Uribe.
Later on Thursday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez announced the recall of that country's ambassador in Bogota, saying in a Twitter post that Maduro had requested the ambassador return for consultations about paramilitaries and other problems seeping into the country from Colombia.
Rodriguez said her country will "study our relations with Colombia deeply" given the aggressions Venezuela has suffered at the hands of paramilitaries and those waging an "economic war".
Recalling an ambassador for consultations is considered the diplomatic equivalent of lodging a complaint.
|Colombian ministers greeted migrants deported to its side of the border [EPA]