Venezuela Shuts-Down Border with Colombia and Arrests Currency Smugglers

President Nicolás Maduro officially ordered a temporary border closure with Colombia Monday calling the decision “necessary” and part of the country’s attempt to crackdown on “mafias”. 

By Jeanette Charles
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Women shows stacks of 100 Bolivar bills (AFP).
Women shows stacks of 100 Bolivar bills (AFP).

El Progreso, December 13th 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) -President Nicolás Maduro officially ordered a temporary border closure with Colombia Monday calling the decision “necessary” and part of the country’s attempt to crackdown on “mafias”. Meanwhile, national efforts are underway to remove the 100 bolivar note from circulation as Venezuelans deposit their remaining bills at public banks. 

“From this moment, the border will be closed with Colombia for 72 hours,” announced Maduro.

The Venezuelan head of state referred to the groups operating out of Colombian border towns such as Cúcuta as having a major role in the economic war consistently destabilizing the Venezuelan economy in recent years.  

Maduro denounced Colombian based groups for smuggling over 300 million bolivars across the border with Colombia. "There are entire warehouses of 100 bolivar bills in Cúcuta, Cartagena, Maicao, Bucaramanga," Maduro asserted.

Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino and Interior, Justice and Peace Minister Néstor Reverol both supported the initiative expressing that, “[we will] immediately close all possibilities through land and sea travel to make sure these bills do not return, that those who took them can keep their fraud abroad.” 

The Venezuelan government also issued an official statement requesting Colombian authorities repeal Resolution 8 and take action against the illicit economic activities occurring in their country especially along the border region. 

“The Venezuelan government formally reiterates the request made to the Colombian government to repeal the articles of Resolution No. 8 of its legislation, which foment the exchange rate disparity and disturb the Venezuelan economy, through the double regulation on the currency exchange, established by the Central Bank of Colombia and another regulation only for the borders without defined patterns or control,” read the statement.

Resolution 8 was approved in 2000 by Colombia's Bank of the Republic and outlines the regulations for exchanging money with neighbouring Ecuador and Venezuela. It allows forex centers in the border town of Cucuta to set the price of foreign currency, independently of the rate set by Colombia's central bank. The Venezuelan government has argued that this has created a parallel market aimed at devaluing its currency along its border. 

In 2014 and 2015, Colombia and Venezuela’s foreign ministers met and agreed to take collaborative actions against illicit financial activities “with respect to each other’s currencies”.  

According to El Nuevo Herald, 117 people have been arrested along the border with Colombia in recent days for attempting to enter Venezuelan territory with 100 bolivar notes. The Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) have confiscated millions of bolivars in 100 bills from these arrests. The nationalities of all those arrested have not been released.

Governor of Táchira state, border with Colombia,  José Vielma Mora declared, “there is an uncertain situation, there is shock in Cúcuta, there is desperation in Cúcuta, a vertiginous form of money exchange has been broken.” The governor also stated that the parallel dollar exchange dropped from 4,200 bolivars to 3,960 bolivars per dollar in 24 hours. 

Maduro has called the 100 bill recall “urgent to guarantee and defend [our] economic stability”.

Venezuela's new currency will begin circulation December 15th and in denominations of 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, 1,000 and 500 bolivares with 100-, 50- and 10-bolivar coins, the BCV confirmed.

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