President Nicolas Maduro said he would work with Colombia’s government to normalize conditions at their shared border after Venezuelan soldiers were injured by alleged Colombian smugglers yesterday.
“We’re victims and we need to take extraordinary measures to fight these circumstances,” Maduro said, blaming the porous border for an increase in drug and gasoline smuggling and an “exodus” of migrants from Colombia he said are fleeing poverty in the neighboring country.
Maduro ordered the closure of Venezuela’s border with Colombia in the country’s western Tachira state late Wednesday for 72 hours after three soldiers were injured in a contraband raid. Two soldiers remain in critical condition, he said.
A special humanitarian plan is needed for Colombian migrants, Maduro said, adding that 5.6 million Colombians are currently living in Venezuela. Strict price controls in Venezuela and arbitrage incentives between the official and black market exchange rates have made it increasingly profitable for smugglers who buy regulated goods and resell them in Colombia for hard currency.