Venezuela extends Colombian border closures

Venezuelan President Maduro extends state of emergency and border closures amid rising tensions with Colombia

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro waves Colombian and Venezuelan flags outside Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela August 28, 2015.

Updated Aug 30, 2015

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro extended Colombian border closures in Tachira state on Friday, amid rising tensions between the two countries. 

"I have decided to close the border at Zone 2 in the state of Tachira in the municipalities of Lovatera, Ayacucho, Garcia de Hevia and Panamericana, San Juan de Colon, La Fria and Coloncito,” Maduro said.

He also announced that he decided to send 3,000 more soldiers to the area “to search for these paramilitaries, including under rocks.” in a meeting held in the capital Caracas on Friday.

The crisis on the border started last week when Venezuela closed two border crossings following a conflict with Colombian smugglers and paramilitaries, and began deporting over 1,000 Colombians living in the border towns.

Between 5,000 and 6,000 people, in fear of losing their properties also left, some carrying them through a river across the border.

Venezuela, an oil rich socialist country, has been suffering from shortages of commodities as falling prices of oil hit the country's economy.

The cheap prices, because of government subsidies, could be up to ten times cheaper in Venezuela than Colombia, and due to this reason the 2,200 km (1,400 mile) long porous border between the two countries gave rise to smuggling.

Smugglers buy commodities from Venezuela at low prices and resell them in Colombia for higher profits.

“To end with the reselling of products because we're tired that food from here is taken to Colombia and the markets are empty. This is why we're here supporting Maduro and we want peace," a Maduro supporter said at the meeting .

Colombian critics and government opponents in Venezuela claim the crackdown is a way for Maduro to take the attention of the rising inflation and supermarket shortages.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, on the other hand, called for a meeting of Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and Organization of American States (OAS).

He said he wants to “tell the world what is happening.” The organization is expected to meet next week.

Although the Venezuelan and Colombian foreign ministers had met on Wednesday and said the officials from the two countries will meet in the following days for a joint plan on border security, Colombia and Venezuela have recalled their ambassadors consecutively on Thursday.

The closure of two crossings halted the underground economy, which pleases Venezuela, but that also affected the subsistence of tens of thousands of poor Colombians.

Maduro also said on Friday that he can have a face to face meeting with Santos to discuss the mounting tensions wherever and whenever his counterpart chooses, according to Al Jazeera.

However he declared in the meeting that he is leaving on Saturday to Vietnam and China “to sign financial, economic and strategic agreements."

TRTWorld and agencies