CARACAS – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday he will continue taking “structural and radical” measures at the country’s border with Colombia, on a day when his government decided to expand state of emergency over the entire border state of Tachira.
Maduro made the televised announcement from China, where he is on an official visit, insisting it was his “constitutional obligation” to take action in the region “to build a new border.”
The president also expressed his wish to talk to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and reiterate his conditions for re-opening the border after it was sealed off on Aug. 19 in Tachira, and the state of emergency.
Maduro’s first condition involves Colombia cracking down on exchange offices that “attack Venezuelan currency” in Colombian border towns and in Bogota.
His second condition involves Colombia taking concrete steps to stop smuggling, which “is bleeding the border economy dry” and adversely affecting product supply chains in the country.
The expansion of the state of emergency comes a day after the Organization of American States, in an extraordinary session, refused to convene a meeting to discuss the border crisis between Venezuela and Colombia.
On the other hand, Santos said on Tuesday that his government was “seriously considering” filing a complaint at the International Criminal Court against members of the Venezuelan government for alleged “crimes against humanity” over the deportation of hundreds of Colombians.
He also announced Colombia would not attend the Union of South American Nations meeting as a sign of protest, in light of the border crisis with Venezuela.
According to a report released on Monday by UN officials who visited the area, 1,100 Colombians have been repatriated in the last 13 days by Venezuela and at least 10,000 others have returned to the country “out of fear.”
There are already 10 municipality towns under the state of emergency, covering 160 km (99 miles) of the frontier that includes the entire border territory of Tachira.
Emergency was declared in Tachira days after Maduro ordered the closure of the border, following an attack on three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian by alleged smugglers.
Venezuelan Ombudsman Tarek William Saab said on Tuesday that Colombia should compensate Venezuela for all the damages caused due to crime, smuggling and paramilitary infiltration.
He further said those repatriated were illegal residents living in the La Invasion sector, a few meters away from the now-closed border, that was raided by Venezuelan military and police.