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Poll: Nearly Half of Colombians Fear Venezuela War Over Border Crisis

FILE - People stand next to a closed gate as they wait to try to cross La Union international bridge, on the border with Colombia at Boca de Grita in Tachira state, Venezuela, Aug. 29, 2015.

Nearly half of Colombians fear a diplomatic dispute that began last month when Venezuela closed several border crossings and deported thousands of Colombians, could lead to war, a survey released on Tuesday showed.

Forty-three percent of people in a Cifras y Conceptos poll published by Caracol Radio and Red + Noticias said they fear the crisis could lead to military conflict between the two countries. Twenty percent said they were afraid more Colombians would be expelled from Venezuela.

The South American neighbors could break diplomatic relations, 19 percent said, while 13 percent believe Venezuelans could leave their country for Colombia. The countries share a long and porous border plagued by drug trafficking, paramilitaries, left-wing guerrillas and smugglers.

Socialist Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has blamed many of recession-hit Venezuela's problems on Colombians. Maduro closed major checkpoints and deported 1,400 Colombians in August in what he said was a crackdown on smuggling and crime. As many as 18,000 Colombians have since left Venezuela.

Maduro's political opponents say he is using Colombians as scapegoats to distract from Venezuela's economic crisis.

Colombia formally protested to the Venezuelan government after two military airplanes were detected in Colombian airspace on Saturday without permission. Another aircraft entered on Sunday, the government has said.

Colombians were made to leave their homes in several Venezuelan border towns and forced in many cases to cross rivers and bridges with their belongings on their backs.

More than half of the 3,848 people polled, 51 percent, said Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos is handling the crisis well or very well. Forty-seven percent said his efforts were very poor.

The survey, conducted in five major cities across Colombia, had a 2.6 percent margin of error.