One of Colombia's most prominent progressive social movements issued a statement Tuesday in solidarity with the Venezuelan government's action against paramilitaries and smuggling.
“On the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty and self determination ... we must seek to attack the greatest enemies to regional peace: the paramilitary phenomenon, the smuggling of petrol, supplies, livestock and food, and the illegal currency trade,” said Colombia's Marcha Patriotica (Patriotic March).
The movement continued by stating, “These extraordinary measures could be the beginning of an overall long term plan to resolve the border situation.”
The statement was in response to criticism of Venezuela's crackdown on cross border crime. President Nicolas Maduro declared a state of exception – similar to a state of emergency except civil rights are maintained – in five municipalities of the frontier state of Tachira Friday to crack down on smuggling and other cross-border crime, including the movement of paramilitary groups.
More than 2,000 soldiers have been deployed.
While the initiative has been widely welcomed by Venezuelans living in border areas, the measures have been controversial in Colombia. However, Marcha Patriotica argued the Venezuelan crackdown should be a “wake up call” to Colombia's government. The movement slammed the government in Bogota for its “abandonment” its border region to organized crime and paramilitaries, arguing that a lack of government intervention has led to “regional destabilization.”
“For the sake of our sister nations, the border should be established as healthy bi-national territory in peace and to promote development,” Marcha Patriotica stated.
The statement was released as Venezuela's Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez urged the Colombian government to take responsibility for its side of the border.
Rodriguez stressed that Venezuela experiences a “state of constant aggression” along its borders, referring to paramilitary groups prowling the areas.