More than 2,000 soldiers from the National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB) and other state security forces were deployed in the early hours of the morning to the La Invasion region in San Antonio, Tachira state after Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro declared a state of exception in the area.
Around 500 families live in the area, 90 percent of them being originally from Colombia. Intelligence information has revealed that the area however is a hub for criminals and the Colombian paramilitary, but other Colombians fleeing the difficult situation in their country also stay there.
Morantes Torres of the FANB said that fleeing Colombians were a minority however.
President Nicolas Maduro declared a state of exception – similar to a state of emergency but where no human rights are rescinded – in five municipalities of Tachira state Friday in order to re-take control over the border area and re-organize it.
“Tachira has a big influence on the rest of the country, and taking control like this, we believe will have an impact on the current situaiton in the country with food and insecurity,” Morantes said, referring to shortages of some food products that are often smuggled to Colombia and sold at higher prices. It is estimated that 40 percent of supplies for Venezuelans are taken to Colombia.
Jose Vielma Mora, governor of Tachira and in charge of implementing the state of exception, said that each month, 27,000 tons of food arrive in area, “enough to supply 1.5 mllion Tachira residents, but the vast majority goes as contraband to Colombia, and that’s why there’s scarcity and long lines (for food).”
Vielma Mora said that the situation will be controlled, and the state of exception will facilitate a census of businesses, the population, schools, and other relevant sectors in the five municipalities.
He clarified that the state of exception didn’t mean the suspension of any rights, “Just the opposite, we’re going to return the people’s rights to them after they have been taken by an incursion of Colombian paramilitary violence in Venezuela.”
Maduro has asked that the Venezuelan and Colombian foreign ministers meet in order to find joint solutions to the border issue. The two diplomats rescheduled their original Sep 14th meeting for later this week, in light of these latest measures.
The governor of Tachira also indicated yesterday that 791 Colombians illegally residing in the area were taken in buses to the border and handed over to Colombian authorities “with all there rights guaranteed…and without any humiliation.”
After two Venezuelan soldiers were attacked in the region last week, Maduro called for a 72 hour border closure, which he extended on Saturday presumably after authorities recognized the extent of illegal activity in the area.
Today, on the third day of the state of exception, official sources reported the arrest of 10 alleged paramilitaries.
Military officials deployed to La Invasion have additionally discovered subterranean passages where goods were hoarded, and evidence of human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors.
President Maduro has declared that the state of Exception will remain in effect for up to 60 days, or until “peace is restored” in the region.
Original article published by TeleSUR English. Additional reporting by Venezuelanalysis.com.