Late last night, Maduro declared a state of exception in five municipalities that border Colombia. The municipalities – all of which are found in Tachira state – are: Bolivar, Ureña, Junin, Capacho Libertad and Capacho Independencia. Tachira state governor Jose Vielma Mora has been given command over the zones in question.
A state of exception is a constitutional tool used in cases of emergency to suspend certain constitutional guarantees in order to deal with an extraordinary crisis.
Article 337 of the Constitution grants the President the power to decree a state of exception. The Article reads [emphasis mine]:
Article 337: The President of the Republic, at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, shall have the power to decree states of exception. Expressly defined as such are circumstances of a social, economic, political, natural or ecological nature which seriously affect the security of the Nation, institutions and citizens, in the face of which the powers available to cope with such events are insufficient. In such case, the guarantees contained in this Constitution may be temporarily restricted, with the exception of those relating to the right to life, prohibition of incommunicative detention or torture, the right to due process, the right to information and other intangible human rights.
Maduro explained that the municipalities will remain in a state of exception for the next 60 days, with the possibility to extend the period another 60 days. He also said that the closed border crossings with Colombia would not reopen “until further notice”, reneging his initial announcement that they would open by the end of this weekend.
Earlier this week, Venezuelan army soldiers were involved in a firefight with a group of alleged smugglers, or bachaqueros as they are known in Venezuela. Maduro and the PSUV have argued repeatedly in the past that bachaqueros are largely to blame for the scarcity crisis affecting the country.
MUD Responds to State of Exception Decree
In a press release issued shortly after Maduro’s announcement regarding the state of exception, the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica said that the decree was nothing more than a “dress rehearsal” for a future attempt to disrupt the December 6 parliamentary elections. To the MUD, the decree represents a possible “escape route” a desperate PSUV might try to take in order to avoid its “imminent defeat” at the polls.
In the same press release, the MUD also called the measure “unbelievable and disproportionate”, given the fact that the state of exception has tremendous consequences for the Venezuelans living in the affected zones. Furthermore, the MUD argued:
[The state of exception] is an inadequate measure, since the insecurity situation and severe economic crisis affecting the border regions (…) have deeply-rooted causes, created and made worse over the last 17 years, and that affect the entire country.
Cabello Criticizes MUD Over Border Closure Stance
Speaking at a PSUV event earlier today, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello called a press release by the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica on the Colombian border closure “shameful”, and said that the MUD was not interested in protecting Venezuelans.
Cabello said that while in the past civil liberties were suspended to oppress people, the state of exception is a tool with which the government can help Venezuelans:
We give our President Maduro all of our support with these measures that seek to dismantle paramilitary groups, bachaqueros, smugglers, and criminals.
He also suggested that some basic necessities that had previously been difficult to find had re-appeared in some supermarkets in the affected municipalities, although he provided no evidence for his claim.
Cabello also said that Venezuelan’s problems – namely insecurity and drug trafficking – had been “brought to the country by a sector of the Venezuelan opposition”, and that the PSUV would not hesitate to declare more states of exception along the border regions “if necessary”.
Diosdado Cabello’s Wife Chased Off by Angry Crowd
At some point during their visit, the crowd of beach-goers grew hostile and began to hurl insults and sand at the two women.
Below, a video showing the moment Contreras and Lugo, accompanied by their entourage, are forced off the beach by the crowd. The crowd is yelling “Fuera!” [“Get out!”], assorted insults, and calling the women thieves:
The video below shows the same moment, but from a different angle:
El Nacional reports that five people were arrested in connection with the event.
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