Venezuelan troops invaded Colombia this week. But just a little bit.

From the Washington PostA group of about 60 Venezuelan soldiers crossed the border into Colombia this week, set up camp on a banana plantation and flew their national flag for a few days, an incident Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called “a totally unacceptable” violation of national sovereignty.

Santos said Thursday he spoke personally to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro about the incursion, and following their conversation, Maduro ordered the troops to return to their country. By Thursday afternoon, the soldiers had decamped for Venezuela and offered to pay for any damage to the crops.

The puzzling episode has kept tensions simmering between the two countries, whose busy land border has become the site of spillover problems from crisis-wracked Venezuela.

Santos has generally refrained from criticizing Maduro as forcefully as other Latin American leaders, but Colombia joined the United States and a dozen other nations in the region Thursday in a statement calling on Venezuela to release political prisoners and hold new elections.

Within hours of that statement’s release, Venezuela’s foreign ministry broke its silence on the border dispute and lashed out at the Colombian government for presenting what it called a “distorted” version of events. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

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