Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro announced the closure of another section of the border with Colombia amid a deepening diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
The Venezuelan president said he had closed the crossing in Paraguachon, Zulia and that a state of emergency had been called in three neighboring cities. Maduro added that he would send 3,000 soldiers into the area.
Over the course of the past two weeks, Maduro has closed six border crossings and deported an estimated 1,400 Colombians who he claimed were fueling the smuggling of government subsidized goods such as gasoline and food from Venezuela into Colombia. Since Maduro’s government began the crackdown, over 10,000 Colombians nationals have voluntarily left the country for fear reprisals.
President Santos and Colombian officials have denounced the border closures and deportations. The mayor of Colombian border city of Cucuta accused Maduro before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) of violating international law and the Colombian immigrants’ human rights.
Maduro has called on Santos to agree to bilateral talks over the ongoing crisis. Santos has put conditions on the proposed meeting, demanding that Venezuela allowed Colombian school children to cross the border to attend school, the use of minimal protocol in cases of deportation and to keep an alleged promise allowing Colombian trucks to enter Venezuela to pick up deported Colombians’ belongings.
While Venezuelan authorities subsequently allowed the passage of school children, they have not responded to any of Santos’ remaining conditions.
In his televised address, the Venezuelan president claimed that Santos is avoiding dialogue about the current border crisis.
Venezuela is home to some 5 million Colombians, some of whom — primarily in the border region — live and work illegally in the neighboring country. On August 18, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of the border between the Colombian city of Cucuta and the Tachira state of Venezuela, following an attack on Venezuelan security forces that left three soldiers wounded.
On Sunday, hundreds of Colombians and Venezuelans marched in protest of the border closure and called on Venezuela to respect the right of Colombian immigrants living and working in their country.