Santa Elena, Venezuela (VA)– The governor of Venezuela’s Tachira state reported that over 50 Venezuelan National Guards (GNB) have been arrested for their alleged rolls in smuggling operations on the Colombian border, while 110 regional police officers have been fired for related activity.
Governor Jose Vielma Mora insisted on Monday that the situation is “binational,” and reiterated his call for the Colombian government to address the situation appropriately by recognizing the level of crime that had become the norm on the shared border until a recent government crackdown.
On August 19 Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro called a state of exception in the border region of Tachira state, in an attempt to combat the smuggling of Venezuelan food and gasoline to Colombia and in acknowledgement of a growing paramilitary presence in the region.
Since that time, 13 alleged paramilitaries have been captured and over a thousand undocumented Colombian citizens have been deported from the area.
Vielma Mora also confirmed that no further Colombians have been deported since the first weekend of the border offensive, when 2000 Venezuelan soldiers raided the makeshift border town La Invasion, a notorious hub of criminal activity.
The move provoked an exaggerated media response as international press portrayed the crackdown as uniquely migration-related, rather than a push against smuggling gangs.
Over 40% of Venezuelan food items and goods were being smuggled across the border, as well as 45,000 barrels of oil daily, according to official data.
The highly profitable contraband business represented a deep source of economic strife and scarcity in the South American nation.
The latest GNB arrests highlight the government’s multi-faceted attempt to dismantle the corrupt structures that facilitated the trade.
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) Secretary-General and former Colombian president Ernesto Samper announced Tuesday a proposal to form a commission to verify and guarantee human rights at the border between Colombia and Venezuela, in response to an analogous request from Maduro.
This report was prepared by