Jorge Arreaza’s visit to San Antonio de Tachira came after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro declared a state of exception in the border region.
Venezuelan Vice President, Jorge Arreaza, visted the Colombian border region Sunday to ensure that measures were in place to prevent smuggling and to loosen the grip of paramilitary groups working in the area.
Arreaza’s visit to San Antonio de Tachira came after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro declared a state of exception in the border region in order to restore border controls following an alleged paramilitary attack that injured three soldiers on Wednesday.
“We are verifying in the terrain the application of the steps that President Nicolas Maduro has taken to protect the Tachira and Venezuela,” the vice president posted to his Twitter account.
Estamos verificando en el terreno la aplicación de las acciones que ha tomado el Pdte @NicolasMaduro para proteger al Táchira y a Venezuela— Jorge Arreaza (@jaarreaza) August 23, 2015
On Saturday, the first day of the operation known as Operation Liberation for the People (OLP), Venezuelan security forces seized some 56 tons of contraband food, while up to 500 undocumented Colombians were deported.
More than 2,000 soldiers from the National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB) and other state security forces were deployed in the early hours of the morning to the La Invasion region in San Antonio, Tachira state.
2. Se inició entonces la OLP Operacion Liberación del Pueblo con el objetivo de atacar el delito venga de donde venga pic.twitter.com/WmQIGUnDmY— Madelein Garcia (@madeleintlSUR) August 23, 2015
According to teleSUR correspondent, Madelein Garcia, the operation has also uncovered illegal brothels, sales centers of illicit alcoholic drinks, and safe houses inhabited by apparent kidnapping victims.
A Colombian government committee, headed by Minister of the Interior Juan Fernando Cristo, also met on Sunday to go over the situation of criminal activity along the Venezuelan frontier, a persistent issue for both countries.
However, the Colombian government has criticized the closure of the border, one of Maduro’s measures as part of the state of exception, saying that it will “generate a wide-scale social problem” due to the quantity of people who usually travel through the area.
“The government of the Republic of Colombia reiterates its will for the cooperation with the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in order to deep the binational strategy of the fight against smuggling,” it said in a statement Sunday, asking that “the integrity and human rights of Colombian citizens who are subject to detention, deportation and other actions by the Venezuelan authorities are respected.”
The two Latin American nations share a 2,219 km border, where smuggling, mainly from Venezuela to Colombia is rife, due to the high profits to be gained.
Since August 2014, as part of the fight against illegal smuggling networks on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, security forces have seized over 20 tons of basic necessities.