Venezuela Responds to International Criticism Regarding Border Closure

Venezuela accused the United States and the European Union of hypocrisy after both bodies criticized the South American nation for deporting over 1000 undocumented Colombians in a crackdown on border smuggling last week.


Santa Elena, August 31st, 2015. ( Venezuela accused the United States and the European Union of hypocrisy after both bodies criticized the South American nation for deporting over 1000 undocumented Colombians in a crackdown on border smuggling last week.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro closed the border with Colombia after three Venezuelan soldiers were injured in a presumed paramilitary attack on August 19th, prompting the South American leader to subsequently declare a 60-day state of exception in Tachira state, where the incident took place.

In lieu of the state of exception- similar to a state of emergency but without the suspension of human rights- over 2000 Venezuelan soldiers were deployed to Tachira to dismantle vast underground smuggling networks, as well as to put a halt to human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors. Hundreds of individuals have been arrested so far.

As part of the raids, the soldiers seized 1,097 undocumented Colombians allegedly associated with smuggling, who were transported out of the country in buses and deported. According to United Nations data, 7,162 Colombians have also voluntarily abandoned their homes in Tachira for fear of deportation or arrest, causing the mayor of Colombian border city Cucuta to call a state of emergency and release funds to address the basic needs of incoming citizens. 

A declaration from the US State Department acknowledged Venezuela’s right to defend its borders, while at the same rebuking the Maduro administration over the deportations. 

“Deportations should take place in accordance with international law, respecting the human rights of all involved, and in coordination with the receiving country,” spokesperson John Kirby said, adding that Colombian “refugees with recognized protection concerns should not be deported.”

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez slammed the US statesman yesterday via Twitter, accusing Washington of intervening in the country’s affairs. 

“Venezuela is one of the few countries internationally recognized for having an immigration policy that is deeply respectful of human rights,” she stated

The United Nations has since confirmed that not one of the 173,600 Colombians with refugee status has been deported from Venezuela.

The European Union was also moved by recent events to make a statement questioning the “violence” surrounding the mass deportation.

Venezuela’s foreign ministry released a vehement response this morning. 

“The statements of these European bureaucrats, who have no moral or authority to interfere in bilateral issues that do not concern them, hide a double standard to say the least, because they come from those who have caused colossal human tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea, which stem from military intervention and terrorist violence in Middle East, Asia and Africa,” read the official document.

“Before attempting to rule the world and give instructions to sovereign countries, we invite you to address the humanitarian crisis generated in [those regions],” the statement adds.

Meanwhile, regional bloc such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) have shown similar concern for growing tension on the border, especially after both countries recalled their ambassadors for consultations on Thursday. 

Former Colombian president and current UNASUR leader Ernesto Samper recognized the Venezuelan government’s efforts to eradicate an authentic paramilitary presence in the region, while requesting an end to the deportations.

Both the OAS and UNASUR are urgently seeking to schedule conferences to address the issue, though the latter is resigned to wait until Foreign Minister Rodriguez returns from a diplomatic trip to China.

No New Deportations

On Sunday, Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Arreaza said there have been no further deportations of Colombians in the past four days.

Authorities are now analyzing case by case to avoid separating families, Arreaza added, while announcing the country’s commitment to improve socio-economic conditions for border communities.

The Vice President is personally overseeing the operation in Tachira, and has repeatedly asked for support from Colombian authorities to combat criminal networks in the region.

Meanwhile, the Colombian government this morning announced it would give citizenship to those Venezuelan spouses of those deported.

A recent poll conducted by the Venezuelan firm Hinterlaces shows that 59% of Venezuelans approve of the border closing. 

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.

Since President Maduro called the state of exception on August 21th, at least ten paramilitaries have been captured in the region, and three other paramilitary leaders have been identified and arrested across the country. 

Government authorities maintain that a total of 30 paramilitary groups are currently active in the country.