Soldiers take part in the military exercises convened by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela, on March 14, 2015. Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez inaugurated the ten-day military exercises on Saturday, which he said was launched due to the urgent need to defend the integrity of the nation. (Xinhua/Boris Vergara) (jg)
Soldiers take part in the military exercises convened by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela, on March 14, 2015. Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez inaugurated the ten-day military exercises on Saturday, which he said was launched due to the urgent need to defend the integrity of the nation. (Xinhua/Boris Vergara) (jg)

Eight Venezuelan soldiers have been captured in fighting with Colombian groups, Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said Saturday.

There was a sign of life from them on May 9, the minister added. Contacts had been made to secure the release of the soldiers. A mediation role is being discussed with the Red Cross.

Since March, there has been fighting between Venezuela’s military and armed groups from Colombia in the border area between the South American countries.

In the communique he read out on state television, Padrino spoke of a kidnapping by armed criminals from Colombia. He said they were profiting from Colombia’s inaction.

The defence minister did not give more details about the identity of the abductors, but called on them to preserve the lives and physical integrity of the prisoners.

According to Venezuelan media, the soldiers were captured as early as April 23.

The media has been circulating a video of five men, believed to be five of the eight soldiers. One of the men claims that they are in the hands of leftist Colombian FARC guerrillas.

In Colombia, a civil war between the armed forces, left-wing guerrilla groups and right-wing paramilitaries raged for 52 years.

FARC, the largest rebel group, agreed on a peace treaty with the government in 2016 and laid down its arms.

However, there are FARC splinter groups still fighting against the government and for shares in the drug trade. The government in Bogota accuses Venezuela of supporting them.

Colombia is one of the bitter opponents of the socialist Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who is largely isolated internationally.

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