CUCUTA, Colombia – Venezuelan soldiers who deserted their posts took refuge on a simple dwelling on the tense part of the Colombia-Venezuela border. These young Venezuelan soldiers ran for their lives, away from the ensuing conflict which has brought their economy into disarray.
The Soldiers’ Situation
The soldiers endured harsh living conditions during their stay in a house where they spend most of their time after their desertion. These young soldiers sleep on thin mat floors. Enduring the cold concrete floor while resting their gear and wet boots all over the house.
Sgt. Jorge Torres, one of the 40 soldiers who abandoned their post, said that he does not support Maduro’s socialist government. He also added that he is already tired of people calling him one of the people who believe in Maduro’s ideals, which he clarified that he is not.
A plan devised by the Venezuelan opposition, backed by the US faced struggles in bringing supplies and humanitarian aid into the country. Troops who swore fealty to Maduro halted the trucks carrying food and medical supplies to cross the border. This, in turn, incited a wave of military defections throughout the border due to the worsening crisis. Colombian immigration officials reported that in a span of only three days, almost 300 soldiers, mostly low-ranked, fled their posts.
With no known relatives within the neighboring country Colombia, a number of soldiers ended up in a shelter managed by a priest. The shelter these soldiers dwell for the meantime become their temporary home. From there, they anxiously contact their relatives from their country on how to apply for asylum.
The Untold Stories Unfolds
Sgt. Jose Gomez, another Venezuelan soldier, said that the only way to resolve the country’s issue is a direct intervention by the international community. In another interview with the Associated Press, nine Venezuelan soldiers recounted the day they were ordered by their commanders to halt the humanitarian aid. Fearing that they may end up in jail if they did not follow the orders. They reluctantly complied and admitted to launching tear gas to protesters. All of these soldiers fled after an impromptu decision with the only thing they have is the uniform that they wear.
A female soldier, who requested to hide her identity, said that she questions the orders issued to them. Despite not having enough food to eat back home.
The soldiers did not see themselves as traitors. But as a concerned citizen aiming for the restoration of their homeland’s democracy.