Speaking from the Miraflores Palace last night, Maduro doubled down on his closure of the border with Colombia in Tachira state, saying that the area was “rotten” and that it would remain closed until he decided otherwise. He also said that he was looking forward to a meeting between the Venezuelan and Colombian Foreign Ministers scheduled for tomorrow, and that he hoped the two countries could work towards creating a “new border, healthy, humane and respectful to life”.
On the current state of affairs along the border, Maduro said:
The border is rotten. We are the victims of a capitalist-paramilitary model from the Colombian right-wing.
Maduro also blamed former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for the attack that left three Venezuelan soldiers and one civilian injured last week, resulting in the closure of the border. Maduro said:
The attack was a dare by paramilitaries controlled by Alvaro Uribe Velez (…) they did it because we’re dismantling important paramilitary bands, plus there’s a lot of people that are on trial that people don’t know about.
On the state of exception involving the five municipalities in Tachira, Maduro named General Carlos Alberto Martinez as the chief of the affected zones. The six municipalities under the state of exception are known as Zone 1.
Finally, Maduro announced the capture of one of the people suspected of being involved in the firefight with the Venezuelan army last week. Erica Moncada Higuita has been arrested, and authorities are looking for five other suspects.
Deportees Accuse Venezuelan Authorities of Mistreatment
El Nacional published testimony from Colombian citizens deported from Venezuela this past weekend detailing some the the mistreatment they claim to have received at the hands of Venezuelan authorities.
Gladys Navarro – who had been living in Venezuela for 10 years – said that National Guard soldiers broke into her family’s home in the middle of the night on Saturday in the San Antonio municipality in Tachira state. She said that the soldiers kicked her, her husband and three children out of the home under the pretext that the soldiers were conducting a census.
Yormari Castaño, who lived Ezequiel Zamora, said that she was taken by authorities along with her two nieces to a park. There, they found dozens of Colombian citizens, none of whom were aware of what was happening. From the park, residents were able to witness how soldiers looted their homes.
El Nacional reports that some of the confusion came from the fact that homes were being spray painted with the letters “R” or “D”, and that the affected residents did not understand why. Some time later, they figured out that “R” stood for “revisada” [searched] and “D” stood for “demolidas” [demolish].
Castaño – who saw soldiers paint the letter “D” on her home – said:
There were children there. They didn’t care. They kicked us out like dogs.
Another resident, Yuleima Rodriguez, said that soldiers took her 27 year old developmentally disabled son away from her home at 5:00 AM on Friday morning. Rodriguez said that the soldiers placed a black pillowcase over his head, and that she does not know where her son is today.
A 30 year old tailor who chose to remain anonymous said that when his family became aware that a mass deportation was taking place, they chose to flee across a river into Colombia. The man took his wife and his neighbour’s 13 year old son with him. On his decision to flee, the man said:
If they had detained me, they wouldn’t have deported me. They would have arrested me, because to these people, Colombians are criminals.
El Nacional reports that at least 34 deported parents are missing their children. The parents told the newspaper that their children were taken away into custody of the state, since they were born in Venezuela and therefore have Venezuelan citizenship.
The video below, uploaded to YouTube yesterday, shows the demolition of a home somewhere in the state of exception. Note the spray painted “D” on the home. My translation follows below:
Man Recording: Look how they demolish a Colombian’s home. Yeah, I’m recording. This is so people can see that us Colombians here, we’re getting our houses demolished. Look how they demolish Colombian people’s homes here in Venezuela. [I can’t understand this next part. I think he says something like, “Here’s some advice for Colombians: here’s what happens in Venezuela to Colombians.”] … and they tear their houses down.
A twelve year old boy whose family was forced out of the country told El Espectador in Cucuta what they had been through over the past few days. The boy, who was born in Venezuela, said that soldiers came to their home and accused his father of being a paramilitary. Then, the boy said:
[The soldiers said] “we’re giving you two minutes to get out or we’ll shoot you” (…) they called me “chino”, they called me a stupid paraco [a term that means “paramilitary”], they asked me “Who is your father? Your father is a paramilitary”, and I told them that my dad was a construction worker. They told me to leave or they’d shoot me.
The boy also told the newspaper that he watched his family home be demolished.
Below, some images of homes with “D”s painted on them, signalling their impending demolition:
Cabello Leaves Door Open for More States of Exception
Speaking during a press conference today, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello suggested that it would be possible for the state of exception affecting six municipalities in Tachira state to be declared in other regions in the country. Cabello said:
If it becomes necessary to declare a state of exception along all of Venezuela’s borders, we PSUV deputies will raise both our hands in support. If it’s necessary to close borders, wherever it may be necessary, to maintain the peace and security of our people, we will raise both our hands in support. We formally propose [to President Maduro] that this measure of closing borders and declaring states of exception be added to other territories to liberate them for the good of our people.
Antonio Ledezma’s Trial Deferred for Fifth Time
Today, a court deferred the start of Antonio Ledezma’s trial for a fifth time, pushing the date back to September 22. Ledezma’s wife, Mitzy, made the announcement through Twitter, and said that her husband was in good spirits knowing that his cause was just.
Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Caracas, was arrested on February 19 in a raid on his offices in El Rosal, Caracas. He stands accused of conspiracy and conspiring to commit a crime over his alleged attempt to overthrow the government.
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