The state of exception declared in six municipalities in Tachira last week has been extended to include four more municipalities in the same state: Lobatera, Ayacucho, Garcia de Hevia and Panamericana. The four municipalities together make up Zone 2 of the state of exception. The head of Zone 2 will be General Luis Arrieta Suarez.
Maduro made the announcement last night in front of the Miraflores palace in Caracas, saying:
To clean up paramilitarism, criminality, bachaquerismo, drug trafficking, I’ve decided to close the border in Zone 2 in Tachira state in the municipalities of Lobatera, Garcia de Hevia, Panamericana and Ayacucho starting at 5:00 AM.
Whereas Zone 1 is located directly adjacent to the border with Colombia, Zone 2 is found inland, about 15 km away from the border.
Maduro said that he has had “lots of patience” with Colombia, but that it has spawned “a campaign of hate developed by Colombian media that lie and manipulate”. Maduro said:
What do they [Colombia] want me to do? Do they want me to be weak before the Colombian oligarchy? (…) How much longer will Colombia continue to close her eyes to problems that are uniquely and exclusively theirs?
Maduro also added detail to his justification for declaring the first state of exception last week:
When I asked for the border with Cucuta to close – on that day with this firm fist that no one can subdue – there was the painful history of 60 years along the Venezuelan border. I was doing justice for the dispossed peoples of Venezuela and Colombia.
On involving UNASUR in the border dispute, Maduro said that he would propose to the organization the creation of a South American Truth Commission to head to “observe the situation on the border”. At the same time, he appeared the refuse out of hand the involvement of any other international organization, saying:
I’m going to propose to UNASUR, in conjunction with the Colombian government — because no one can come here to impose their position, no one can come to impose anything on us, or at the Organization of American States which we don’t recognize any use or value for when it comes to these issues — the OAE should get its nose out of these issue! Out with the OAE! –a South American Truth Commission to come and observe the situation on the border, the drug trafficking, the paramilitarism, the criminal economy, so that it can come and tell the truths that CNN or Caracol [Radio] don’t want to say, along with all the other garbage international media.
Finally, Maduro announced off-hand that he was leaving the country for an unspecified amount of time by simply saying:
Tomorrow I’m going to Vietnam and China to make deals regarding the economic and financial security of Venezuela (…) During these difficult times, I will go to China to find economic support.
Holguin Confirms UNASUR Meeting
Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Maria Angela Holguin confirmed yesterday that UNASUR would met in Quito on September 3 to discuss the border issue. The meeting will be attended by the Foreign Ministers from UNASUR countries.
Santos Increases Gas Subsidy in Cucuta to Help Gas Lines
The closure of the Venezuela-Colombia border near Cucuta, Colombia has forced Colombian citizens who would drive across the border to take advtange of the world’s cheapest gas prices in Venezuela to fill up their vehicles in Cucuta, causing long lines at gas stations in and around Cucuta.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has asked gas stations in the region to work 24 hours a day to help alleviate in the lines, and announced other measures:
Norte de Santander [the Colombian departamento where Cucuta is found] has consumed 85% of its gas, and Cucuta [has consumed] 87%. We’ve taken the following measures: increased subsidized fuel by 30% so that economic activities can continue normally. 80% of that will be gasoline. We’re going to increase business hours in all gas stations until midnight, and go 24 hours at nine stations. We’re also going to increase operations to stop the illegal sale [of gas].
Maduro: Colombians Weren’t “Deported”, Rather “Repatriated”
Speaking on the over 1,000 Colombian citizens who were deported to Colombia last week, Maduro said that:
… they weren’t deported, they were repatriated. They were returned to their place of origin. They wanted to leave as fast as possible because they were afraid of the investigations.
He also said that the people who lived in one of the areas hardest hit by the deportation raids, barrio La Invasion, was in fact a paramilitary base and that everyone who lived there:
… were economic slaves, bachaqueros and paramilitaries, and there were women living there who were sexual slaves.
Caracas Citizens Ignore Gov’t Line Restrictions
Nearly a week after the head of the PSUV for the Distrito Capital region banned lining up at supermarkets outside business hours, Caracas citizens continue the practice.
Carolina Torrealba, a resident of Petare, was lined up outside the Bicentenario in Macaracuay at 5:00 AM yesterday. At 11:00 AM, the line still had not moved. She told El Nacional:
That ban is absurd. You don’t spend the night in a line because you want to. If it was up to me, I’d stay at home with my daughter because we’re on vacation. But here, if you don’t wake up early you miss your chance.
Torrealba said that when she arrived at the supermarket at 5:00 AM, there were about 200 people already there.
Shopper told El Nacional that yesterday, a private-owned supermarket across the street received corn flour, powdered milk and soap. Shoppers started lining up there before 6:00 AM despite the fact that the store opens at 8:00 AM.
The long lines and food shortages continue seemingly unabated, even though government measures taken to alleviate the crisis have been in effect for months. One such measure are fingerprint scanners at cash registers, which shoppers must log in to before shopping. The scanners track how many products a person buys, and stops them from buying over the rationed limit. It appears as if the scanners that have already been installed are networked together across public and private establishments.
They’ve already connected the fingerprint scanners. I bought shampoo at a pharmacy in Boleita and then came to Macaracuay to try to buy another one in a supermarket, but I couldn’t. The scanner said that I was over the allowed limit.
Venezuelan Oil Continues to Drop
The price of Venezuelan oil dropped $3.14 this week and closed at $36.48 yesterday. The average price for Venezuelan oil this year is now $48.56, down from the average of $88,42 for 2014.
This is a challenge for Venezuelans. Oil at $35. This forces us to become more disciplined, to work more, to administer more, to invest resources and we’re going to achieve all of the goals of the misiones [social benefit programs], all the goals we have to achieve.
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