Venezuela Extends Suspension of Travel & Trade with ABC Islands over Smuggling Concerns

The Venezuelan government says minerals are being smuggled out of the country via the islands. 

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Venezuelan VP Tareck-El-Aissami announced the measures Monday. (archives)
Venezuelan VP Tareck-El-Aissami announced the measures Monday. (archives)

Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami has announced that President Nicolas Maduro has extended the suspension of air and sea traffic as well as trade with the Caribbean countries of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.

The VP made the remarks in a series of social media posts to his Twitter account late Monday, explaining that the South American country will uphold the decision until high-level talks are held with the nations involved.

El Aissami added that the necessary strategies should be put in place to combat “the mafias that steal our assets and smuggle with impunity strategic materials, which severely affect the services and quality of life” of the Venezuelan people.

“There are close economic, cultural and family ties between the Caribbean islands and Venezuela. The one-sided closing of the border has a very negative impact,” the Curaçao Chronicles quoted Wever-Croes as saying.

The ABC islands, as the trio is known, are supplied with fresh fruit and vegetables by Venezuela. The goods are usually transported by small boats from the Venezuelan coast.

Maduro earlier stated that Venezuelan gold, silver and copper are being smuggled out of the country via the islands. The Curaçao Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaat said the statement was "incomprehensible."

“The Coast Guard of Curaçao cooperates with the Venezuelan Coast Guard and holds joint exercises to combat cross-border crime,” Rhuggenaat elaborated.

“We are not going to allow any further aggression from these criminal organizations, and we urge that the inaction that fosters impunity be abandoned,” El Aissami said in a post.

The deputy head of the Bolivarian state was resolute regarding implementing strict measures to stem “mafia” influences that threaten to undermine Venezuela's relations with those countries.

He stressed the importance of a “diplomacy of peace in search of the protection of the sovereignty” of Venezuela and the reestablishing of “historical relationship" with our Caribbean brothers.

The government has since confirmed that it will open air links with the three islands in order to allow the safe passage of residents back home. El Aissami also stated that high-level meetings had been arranged with the islands' respective governments to discuss the issue.