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  • Under the Venezuelan Constitution, a state of exception can be applied if it is for the sake of the public good.

    Under the Venezuelan Constitution, a state of exception can be applied if it is for the sake of the public good. | Photo: TSJ

Published 29 August 2015

President Nicolas Maduro's crackdown on smuggling and paramilitaries has now received the backing of his country's highest court.

Venezuela's highest court ruled Friday that measures taken by President Nicolas Maduro to crack down on cross-border crime are legal.

“The (Supreme Court) found the presidential decree meets the legal requirements necessary to be considered constitutional and respectful of international treaties regarding human rights,” the ruling stated.

The decree in question was Maduro's imposition of a state of exception in some border areas of Tachira state.

Under the Venezuelan Constitution, a state of exception can be applied if it is for the sake of the public good. It differs from a state of emergency and martial law – which allow governments, or the military, to impose force and ignore basic human rights – what many news organizations have been erroneously reporting was decreed by Maduro.

RELATED: What is a State of Exception?

Maduro has also deployed troops to border areas to tackle smugglers and paramilitary groups. So far, authorities say they have seized 70 tons of contraband food, and conducted inspections into more than 250 suspicious sites.

On Friday, administrative and finance official Raul Carreno said the crackdown was already resulting in a massive reduction in smuggling operations. Carreno pointed to reduced levels of scarcity, and a reduction in lines at petrol stations. Smugglers regularly scour Venezuelan supermarket shelves for products that can be sold at inflated prices in Colombia. Likewise, smugglers also abuse Venezuela's cheap petrol prices by smuggling fuel across the border to Colombia.

The crackdown has already proved popular in Venezuela.

Almost 80 percent of Venezuelans in areas subject to special anti-smuggling measures approve of the government's actions, according to an official poll conducted by authorities earlier this week.

Only 13 percent of those surveyed said they disapproved of the measures, while just under 7 percent either didn't respond or had no opinion. Around 66 percent said they would like to see the anti-smuggling operations continue, while 23 percent said they were unsure, and 11 percent were opposed.

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