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Venezuelan defectors in Colombia want dissident armed force

Guiadó's defectors in Cúcuta say they stand ready to fight, need support

CUCUTA, Colombia – Juan Guiadó's call for military defectors to join him and stand against Nicolás Maduro didn't go unheard. Eddier Rodriguez is among the hundreds of Venezuelan members of the military, police and intelligence services who answered Guiadó's call to stand on "the right side of history" three months ago.

Since Colombian authorities are treating dissidents as asylum-seekers and giving them work permits, Rodriguez found a job as a security guard in Bogotá. But not for long, the former Venezuelan army sergeant got tired of waiting to go back home. 

Without any further instructions from Guiadó or the Colombian government, Rodriguez said he decided to organize a group of defactors to stand ready to fight to overthrow Maduro. He said neither Guiadó nor Venezuelan businessmen have answered his request for weapons.

"This is a military operation we want to carry out," Rodriguez, 37, said, adding that there are at least 100 defactors who are ready to give their lives to help free Venezuela. 

Rodriguez said he left his job in Bogotá, the high-altitude capital of Colombia, and moved to Cúcuta, a Colombian city at the border with Venezuela's western state of Tachira to work on a plan he has dubbed Operation Venezuela.

Williams Cancino is among the 170 Venezuelan defectors who were staying at the Hotel Villa Antigua in Cúcuta waiting for Guiadó's orders. Instead, he said Guaidó and his delegates are expecting them to behave like refugees and not like the dissident armed force that they want to be.  

"I do not regret my decision because I can't serve under a murderous and narcotrafficking regime," Cancino said about his decision to defect, adding that had it not been for Guiadó's call, he probably would have decided to fight from within.

Instead of training with Rodriguez or fighting for his country, Cancino said he handed over his weapons and uniform to Colombian authorities after he crossed the border, and now he is having to look for an apartment and a job. 

Without the support of a foreign military, joining a group of armed Venezuelan combatants in foreign land could put the dissidents' refugee status in peril.