Merida, 2nd August 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced the creation of a new taskforce to strengthen border security, following the release of further details of an alleged assassination plot that targeted the head of state.
On Thursday, Maduro stated that the joint civil-military initiative will “exclusively attack, persecute and neutralise the gangs that commit crimes against the population at the borders”.
The announcement came following a meeting between Maduro, the military high command and governors of border states in the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas.
“I want to tell the people of Tachira, Zulia, Apure, Amazonas, Bolivar and all areas bordering these states, we are setting up a new strategy to strengthen governance... at the border,” Maduro stated.
According to the president, the initiative is intended to curb smuggling, including the narcotics trade, and will be managed by state governments and the military.
“We don't plan to live with drug trafficking and smuggling, but to finish it,” he said in a statement aired on state broadcaster VTV following the meeting.
Maduro told the press that preparations for the new taskforce will begin immediately. The initiative will be headed by Major General Wilmer Barrientos, and operate on the Colombian and Brazilian borders.
Maduro also stated that today he would put forward a series of proposals to Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, who is currently visiting Caracas. Today's meeting followed talks between Maduro and his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos last month. The meeting last month ended with both presidents stating they would pursue closer diplomatic relations, including stronger bilateral action on crime at the border between the two countries.
“We will fight all forms of crime, criminality and smuggling on Colombian-Venezuelan border,” Maduro said.
Ahead of the meeting, Venezuela's foreign minister Elias Jaua emphasised the need for bilateral cooperation to address border crime.
In this afternoon's meeting, Jaua stated Colombia and Venezuela need to “establish the necessary mechanisms sufficient to minimise the impact” of smuggling on both economies.
Yesterday, Maduro also announced that authorities will increase efforts to monitor Venezuelan airspace for unauthorised flights to “end illegal overflights linked to drug trafficking in Venezuela”.
The president indicated that narcotics traffickers flying between Colombia and Venezuela will be the main targets.
“This is part of the whole issue of national border security,” Maduro stated.
In the same announcement, Maduro stated that he would push for the head of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, to call for a resumption of talks on border law reform, arguing that current regulations are insufficient.
A “Hurricane Force”
The move to tighten border security comes as senior government officials continue to release details of an alleged assassination plot targeting Maduro.
When the alleged plot was first revealed last week, details of what Maduro described as “crazy plans” were scant. Last Thursday, Cabello told VTV that the plot involved members of the political opposition as well as Venezuelans living in the United States.
This week, the interior and justice minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres stated on an interview with Telesur that the latest attempt on Maduro's life was set to take place on 24 July, and was to be followed by further violence intended to “destabilise” the country.
According to the minister, authorities have evidence linking the plot to members of the “highly radical right” in Venezuela and Colombia, former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, de facto president of Honduras Roberto Micheletti and the former CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles. The latter is wanted in Venezuela in connection to the 1976 bombing of a Cubana Airlines flight, but the US has rejected calls for his extradition.
Torres said during an interview with Telesur that the plan, allegedly hatched in Miami and Panama, called for a sniper attack on Maduro, after which 800 armed attackers that crossed into Venezuela from Colombia would carry out further assassinations.
“They first wanted to destabilise the country, but then they decided to kill him [Maduro],” Torres stated.
“The killing of Nicolas Maduro had a cost of $2.5 million,” he added.
According to the minister, along with assassinating the president, the plotters hoped to create a civil conflict in Venezuela, which would end with an international intervention.
“We remain alert to any signs, [and though] we are strengthening security circles around Nicolas Maduro, the assassination plans will keep coming,” he said.
“President Maduro can be sure that the Venezuelan intelligence service is constantly working for his safety...we need to ensure the protection and integrity of our people and our president,” Torres stated.
“If this crazed and demented right someday succeed in getting me out of the way with an attack, the wrath of god will fall upon them and our country will unfortunately fall into a conflict of escalating violence, but the revolution will prevail over anything,” Maduro said on Thursday.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles has also been accused of involvement in the plot, which he has described as an “absurdity”.
“Again the corrupt alleging an attack, all to try to distract our people from the disaster of the government. Nobody believes them,” Capriles tweeted earlier this week.
Micheletti has also responded by accusing Maduro of fabricating the plot as an attempt to “gain some sympathy from his constituents”.
“It's ridiculous,” the de facto head of state alleged.
Maduro stated that in the face of any destabilisation attempt, Venezuelans “would be possessed by a hurricane force” to defend the country.