CARACAS – More than 2,000 soldiers of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Armed Forces, or FANB, are making a “house by house” search in an area along the Colombian border in a hunt for paramilitary forces, smugglers and people wanted for other crimes, as part of the “state of exception” decreed by President Nicolas Maduro.
“The first day of the state of exception began in areas along the border at 4:00 a.m. Saturday with the activation of more than 2,000 troops of the FANB,” the state-run AVN news agency reported.
The search, it said, is being carried out in an area of Tachira state “invaded” illegally by around 1,900 families, 90 percent of whose members are “of Colombian origin.”
“Those who are not in Venezuela legally must return to Colombia,” it warned.
On Friday night, Maduro declared a state of exception in Tachira for 60 days, with the proviso that it may be extended for another 60 days, and closed “until further notice” all border crossings to and from the neighboring country.
“This border will remain closed until further notice, until we regularize our socioeconomic life,” Maduro said, after confirming that his decision followed the ambush of a military patrol.
Gen. Temistocles Morantes Torres said that Tachira “greatly influences the rest of the country, and by taking control of the state, we believe that it will impact the current supply of food products,” a reference to the severe shortages of food and other goods that are allegedly smuggled out of Venezuela into Colombia.
In response, the coalition of the Venezuelan opposition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, said that the state of exception decreed by Maduro is a ploy to suspend the legislative elections scheduled for next Dec. 6, since the president’s party faces “imminent defeat.”
In a communique entitled “State of Exception: The regime’s trial balloon to try and suspend elections in the light of its imminent defeat,” the MUD alerts the Organization of American States, or OAS, the foreign ministers of Unasur and the entire international community to what it says “could be an escape route used by the ruling party to avoid its defeat” in December.
The communique describes Maduro’s decision as “incredible,” coming as it does just 109 days before the crucial legislative elections.