Bolivarian National Guard troops man a barricade blocking access to the Francisco De Paula Santander international bridge in Urena, Venezuela, on the border with Colombia, Feb. 23, 2019.
Bolivarian National Guard troops man a barricade blocking access to the Francisco De Paula Santander international bridge in Urena, Venezuela, on the border with Colombia, Feb. 23, 2019.

BOGOTA - More than 550 members of Venezuela's armed forces have turned their back on President Nicolas Maduro and crossed the border into Colombia since Saturday, Colombian immigration officials said.

The immigration service said Thursday 567 security force members had so far made contact with the authorities in Colombia for assistance. Most had entered Colombia via Norte de Santander and Arauca provinces.

The service — which gave no indication of the deserters' ranks — said it was studying each asylum application on a case-by-case basis.

"If they don't pose a threat to the security of the country," a procedure is initiated to give them asylum, Migration Colombia director Christian Kruger said.

The army high command remains loyal to Maduro.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido — who has been recognized as interim president by more than 50 countries — has promised an amnesty to deserters who break from Maduro's armed forces.

Venezuela has a security force of around 365,000 including military and police, as well as 1.6 million civilian reservists.

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