Speaking in a televised speech last night, Maduro ordered the closing of the border in the Paraguachon region of Zulia, in the state’s northern tip. At the same time, Maduro extended the state of exception to three municipalities in that state: Guajira, Mara and Almirante Padilla.
I’ve decided, after a diagnostico exacto [this could mean, “after finding an exact solution”] to building the new border, to go ahead with the closure of the Paraguachon border crossing in Zulia state so that we may continue with the liberation from criminal crimes committed by smuggling soldiers.
Maduro also ordered 3,000 soldiers to the region “to defend the people of Zulia”, and said that the situation along the Zulia-Colombia border in terms of smuggling and paramilitary activity “is worse than in Tachira”.
The areas affected by the state of exception have significant populations of Wayuu, a people native to the area also known as Guajiro. Maduro exempted them from the border closure, saying that they’d been living in the region “for more than 8,000 years”.
Maduro made the comments after returning from a one-week trip to Asia and the Caribbean. During the trip, Maduro signed 14 accords with the Chinese government and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Maduro Offers Asylum to 20,000 Syrians
At the same event, Maduro announced that he was going forward with a plan to offer asylum to 20,000 refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. Maduro said that he had instructed Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez to proceed with the arrangements. He also said:
I want 20,000 Syrians to come here, Syrian families, to our Venezuelan homeland to share with us this land of peace, Christ, and Bolivar, to work with us and to contribute with their love and pleas to God to continue to developed this magical land.
The four-year old civil war in Syria has left 250,000 dead and 12.5 million people in need of immediate humanitarian aid.
BCV Goes Two Months Without Assigning Foreign Currency to Private Sector
La Patilla reports today that the Banco Central de Venezuela has gone two months without assigning foreign currency to the country’s private sector businesses.
In Venezuela, businesses can only legally access foreign currency through a government body called the Centro Nacional de Comercio Exterior [National Center for Foreign Trade] (CENCOEX).
The article claims that the primary reason for the delay is that the country’s primary breadwinner, PDVSA, has not been selling U.S. dollars to the BCV because it is attempting to save the cash to pay $4.6 billion to creditors between now and the end of the year.
Santos Stresses Conditions on Dialogue
Despite announcing yesterday that he was willing to sit down and speak with Maduro, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said today that any meeting between the two could not happen until steps were taken to reunite families torn apart by the deportation of Colombians from Venezuela.
There are three things that we wish would happen before this meeting: that their possessions begin to be returned, that the children separated from their parents – because Colombian parents left their kids in Venezuela – be allowed to bring them to Colombia, and that the children who live in Venezuela but go to school in Colombia be allowed to go and study.
Santos named similar conditions for a meeting with Maduro earlier during the border crisis, but appeared willing to meet Maduro yesterday.
Colombian Foreign Affairs Minister Maria Angela Holguin arrived in Geneva today to kick off a diplomatic tour to raise awareness for her side’s stance on the issue. Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez called the tour “a waste of time” through her Twitter account today, and said that Colombia was putting on a “reality show”.
UN: 20,000 Colombians Displaced by Tensions
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced today that approximately 20,000 Colombian citizens have left Venezuela either on their own or through deportations since August 19. OCHA said that while 1,467 Colombians have been deported, 18,619 have left Venezuela since tensions with Colombia started twenty days ago.
OCHA’s report points out that while most of the deportees are entering Colombia through the Norte de Santander department bordering Tachira state, “other departments are seeing increased figures”.
The report also found that 21 shelters in Cucuta and neighbouring Villa del Rosario in the Norte de Santander department are currently housing 3,402 displaced Colombians.
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