( AP ) - Venezuela has sent 1,200 troops to its border with Colombia to crack down on smuggling amid a bitter feud between the two countries' governments.
The National Guard announced the stepped-up security Monday night, a day after President Hugo Chavez ordered the military to keep people from smuggling scarce, price-controlled items like milk across the border.
The issue has taken on political overtones because Chavez and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe are at odds over Colombia's long-running guerrilla conflict.
Chavez has called Uribe a "pawn of the U.S. empire," accusing him of being unwilling to negotiate with leftist rebels, while Colombia's government has rebuked Chavez for suggesting that the guerrillas should no longer be classified as terrorists.
Venezuelans have suffered shortages of basic products like milk, chicken and sugar recently as the oil-producing country's robust economic growth has far exceeded agricultural production.
Critics say the socialist government's attempts to force down prices have contributed to the shortages by making it tough for sellers to make any profit. Some people allegedly have sought to sell their goods for higher prices across the border.
Chavez announced an increase in government-set prices for milk over the weekend to try to stem shortages.
The Venezuelan National Guard said Monday it seized about 550 tons of milk, rice and other foods being shuttled across the border in trucks.