Venezuela extends state of emergency to third border state

September 18, 2015

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced he will extend a state of emergency to another 10 municipalities on the border with Colombia.

Three of them are in Apure state. The others are in the state of Zulia, parts of which had already been placed under a state of emergency.

The move is part of a crackdown on crime near the border, where smugglers and guerrilla groups are active.

The crackdown has heightened tensions between Venezuela and Colombia.

The president did not say if border posts in Apure would also be closed as they have been in the states of Tachira and Zulia.


Smugglers’ haven

Under the Venezuelan constitution, a state of emergency can be declared if the security of the country, its citizens or its institutions are at risk.

It temporarily restricts some constitutional rights and allows security forces to search homes without a warrant.

President Maduro took the measure after three soldiers and a civilian were injured in an attack in San Antonio del Tachira near the border last month.

The 2,200km-long border (1,400 miles) between is porous and there has historically been a steady flow of people both ways.

It is also a haven for smugglers, who make an easy profit buying subsidised goods cheaply in Venezuela and selling them at much higher prices in Colombia.

The Venezuelan government estimates that up to 40% of goods it subsidises are lost to smuggling, exacerbating shortages of key products.


Criminal hotspot

Locals have also complained about being extorted by gangs and Colombia’s left-wing guerrilla groups.