Venezuela detains 250 people since Colombian border closure

Venezuela has detained 250 people along its border with Colombia since Venezuelan President ordered border to be closed

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Venezuelan National Guards patrol next to a dirt track close to Colombian border

Venezuela’s Tachira state Governor Jose Vielma Mora announced during a press conference in the state capital on Tuesday that Venezuelan authorities have detained 250 people including Venezuelan policemen and suspected Colombian paramilitaries since the border between Colombia and Venezuela was closed on Aug. 19..

Mora said although 34 suspects were detained for being members of paramilitary groups, the rest of the detentions were linked to the smuggling of products subsidised by Venezuela into Colombia.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered on Aug. 19 the shutdown of the two major border crossings, declaring a state of emergency in part of the frontier region after three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian were wounded in an attack carried out allegedly by Colombian paramilitaries in Tachira.

"To clean up paramilitary activity, crime, smuggling, kidnapping and drug trafficking, I have decided to close the border for zone number two in the state of Tachira," Maduro said.

Later, he announced on Aug. 28 that the border closure with Colombia was extended to the states of Zulia and Apure while more troops were deployed to the border where smugglers and guerrilla groups are active.

Following the decision, almost 1,500 Colombians were deported and an estimated 20,000 others fled their homes fearing eviction.

Rising tensions between two countries

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos recalled his country's ambassador from Venezuela on Aug. 28.

Later in the same day, Maduro also recalled Venezuela’s ambassador in Colombia in response to Santos’ decision.

However, early in September, the foreign ministers of the two countries agreed to renew diplomatic contacts that had been interrupted by the ongoing border crisis between the two neighbours.

On Sept. 22, Maduro and Santos held a meeting in Ecuador which was also attended by Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez and his Ecuadorian counterpart Rafael Correa.

They decided to reopen border crossings and to return their ambassadors to each other’s capitals.

After the talks, Maduro stated that peace had been won and will continue to exist between the countries.

"Common sense, dialogue and peace between our peoples and our countries have triumphed today," said Maduro.

Smuggling has become a profitable business in Venezuela in recent years. The Venezuelan government regulates the minimum prices of many basic goods that are smuggled into Colombia.

According to official figures, up to 40 percent of basic goods and 100,000 barrels of gasoline per day are smuggled, for a total loss of US $3.6 billion per year.

TRTWorld and agencies