Venezuela says Colombian drone violates its airspace as U.S. admiral visits

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino speaks during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela January 11, 2021. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela on Tuesday said a Colombian military drone violated its airspace in what it called a "blatant threat" to its national security that took place during a visit by a U.S. military commander to the neighboring nation.

General Vladimir Padrino said in a statement that a Colombian Air Force drone flew over the Venezuelan border state of Zulia on Monday afternoon.

"This was neither involuntary nor coincidental, as it coincides with the presence in Colombia of Admiral Craig Faller, chief of the United States Southern Command ... to supposedly discuss 'cooperation on security matters,'" Padrino said in the statement posted on the defense ministry's Twitter account.

Colombia's Air Force and the U.S. State Department did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Padrino in June spoke out against a visit by Faller to the Colombian city of Puerto Carreno near the Venezuelan border.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro cut diplomatic ties with Colombia in 2019 and expelled Colombian diplomats in response to Colombian President Ivan Duque's support for an effort by Venezuela's opposition to bring humanitarian aid into the country.

The United States maintains a broad Venezuela sanctions program that was created to force Maduro from power.

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera, writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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