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Uproar over uptick of Venezuelans at Colombian border

by UNTV   |   Posted on Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

FILE PHOTO – A Colombian police officer and a migration officer stand in front of people who are attempting to cross into Colombia from Venezuela through Simon Bolivar international bridge, at Cucuta, Colombia, July 25, 2017. REUTERS/Luis Parada

On Monday, shoving matches broke out at a protest in the border town of Cucuta between Colombians who were out demonstrating the approximately 615 Venezuelans living in their area.

Demonstrators came out to demand the Venezuelans camping out in what’s come to be called “Hotel Caracas” be removed.

Cucuta Mayor, Cesar Omar Rojas, arrived on the scene to ask for two days for a “progressive dislocation” of those Venezuelans who don’t have the proper documentation.

“Whoever is undocumented has to leave the country. Whoever is here legally, with a passport, we will all look for a way for them to be transferred to another part of the country,” said the mayor. 

Among other complaints, the local Colombians are saying the Venezuelans are taking care of their bathroom needs in public areas including a local sporting complex.

“It’s not against all Venezuelans. It’s against the Venezuelans who come to the country to do harm,” said Fernando Roso, a Colombian demonstrator.

The Colombian-Venezuelan border has for years been rife with smuggling and other tensions due to massive price differentials stemming from Venezuela’s state controls. — Reuters


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Colombia vows to help Venezuelans fleeing economic devastation, but tightens border control

by UNTV   |   Posted on Friday, February 9th, 2018

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will tighten border controls with Venezuela and provide extra aid as hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans flee an economic crisis, even while his country already spends millions of dollars to support the migrants.

Even while his country already spends millions of dollars to support the migrants.

“I urge you to allow us Colombians to help, to help the whole international community, to help Venezuelans not to suffer, at least, because of hunger and lack of medicine,” said the Colombian president.

Santos said he would put in place stricter migratory controls along the Venezuelan border, temporarily suspending new daily entry cards for Venezuelans, and deploy 3,000 new security personnel, including 2,120 more soldiers, along with the shared frontier.

Santos warned that he would not tolerate a crime committed by migrants and would prosecute any unlawful behavior.

He will create a new registry of Venezuelans already in Colombia — to better gauge the number of migrants in the country — and open a center with the help of the United Nations to provide aid.

“We urgently need humanitarian aid, hopefully, that the government will accept, the humanitarian aid that they are proposing to him from other countries, especial Colombia that has given us a point of support and has been consistent with us, the Venezuelans, but not with the government,” said Venezuela President Jose Sanchez.

Colombia estimated that it costs $5 per day to supply each Venezuelan migrant with food and lodging. The government did not provide figures on how many migrants it was supporting.

About 1.3 million Venezuelans have registered for the special migration card that allows them to cross the border by day to buy food and other products that are scarce in their own country. No more will be issued, for now, Santos said. — Reuters


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Supermarket shelves nearly empty after Maduro price cuts, mobs

by UNTV   |   Posted on Friday, January 12th, 2018

Supermarket shelves in Caracas were nearly empty on Wednesday (January 10) after a run on the stores following recent government-ordered price cuts.

Over the weekend, the leftist administration of President Nicolas Maduro ordered more than 200 supermarkets to cut prices back to last month’s levels.

The order caused chaos as desperate Venezuelans leaped at the chance to buy cheaper food as the country’s worsening economy causes severe shortages.

Shoppers cleared out the shelves and the food supplies have not been replaced. Many expressed frustration and concern.

“This seems critical to me because honestly, we are going through a very serious crisis right now. I don’t know what to do because I can’t get anything basic,” said Luis Gamboa, a shopper.

Lootings and scattered street protests hit the once industrial city of Guayana as unrest grows due to food shortages and a Malaria outbreak.

“With everything, it takes to have anything and for it to be gone in five minutes. I just kept thinking the worst. For you to end up like this, with nothing. It’s horrible to be living with this,” said Juana Castilla, owner of a store.

Critics said Maduro is playing with fire in the oil-rich nation, where millions are unable to eat three square meals a day and malnutrition is on the rise, saying his policy will dissuade supermarkets from stocking their shelves and could trigger looting. — Reuters



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U.S. declares Venezuela a national security threat, sanctions top officials

by cyron monton   |   Posted on Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

Opposition supporters shout during a rally to commemorate International Women’s Day and in support of jailed opposition leaders, Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma, in Caracas, March 8, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

(Reuters) – The United States declared Venezuela a national security threat on Monday and ordered sanctions against seven officials from the oil-rich country in the worst bilateral diplomatic dispute since socialist President Nicolas Maduro took office in 2013.

U.S. President Barack Obama signed and issued the executive order, which senior administration officials said did not target Venezuela’s energy sector or broader economy. But the move stokes tensions between Washington and Caracas just as U.S. relations with Cuba, a longtime U.S. foe in Latin America and key ally to Venezuela, are set to be normalized.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro denounced the sanctions as an attempt to topple his government. At the end of a thundering two-hour speech, Maduro said he would seek decree powers to counter the “imperialist” threat, and appointed one of the sanctioned officials as the new interior minister.

Declaring any country a threat to national security is the first step in starting a U.S. sanctions program. The same process has been followed with countries such as Iran and Syria, U.S. officials said.

The White House said the order targeted people whose actions undermined democratic processes or institutions, had committed acts of violence or abuse of human rights, were involved in prohibiting or penalizing freedom of expression, or were government officials involved in public corruption.

“Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here, and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of U.S. financial systems,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement.

“We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents,” he added.

Venezuela called home its charge d’affaires in Washington for consultations, and Maduro accused Obama of a “colossal mistake” and “imperialist arrogance” similar to his predecessors Richard Nixon and George W. Bush.

“President Barack Obama … has personally decided to take on the task of defeating my government and intervening in Venezuela to control it,” Maduro said in a televised address.

In response, Maduro said he would on Tuesday ask the National Assembly, controlled by the ruling Socialists, to grant him decree powers – for the second time in his nearly two-year rule through a so-called Enabling Law, which critics blast as a power grab.

Maduro also paraded the seven officials, hailing them as “heroes” and naming national intelligence head Gustavo Gonzalez, whom Washington accuses of complicity in violence against protesters, as new interior minister.


The two countries have not had full diplomatic representation since 2008, when late socialist leader Hugo Chavez expelled then-U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy. Washington responded by expelling Venezuelan envoy Bernardo Alvarez.

The list of sanctioned individuals includes: Gonzalez, the head of state intelligence service Sebin; Manuel Perez, director of the national police; and Justo Noguero, a former National Guard commander who runs state mining firm CVG. It also includes three other military officers and a state prosecutor.

The individuals’ would have their property and interests in the United States blocked or frozen and would be denied entry into the United States. U.S. citizens and permanent residents would be prohibited from doing business with them.

The White House also called on Venezuela to release all political prisoners.

“We’ve seen many times that the Venezuelan government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela,” Earnest said in the statement.

U.S. officials told reporters in a conference call that the executive order did not target the Venezuelan people or economy and stressed that upcoming legislative elections should be held without intimidation of government opponents.

The sanctions effectively confirm Venezuela as the United States’ primary adversary in Latin America, a label that was for decades applied to Communist-run Cuba until Washington and Havana announced a diplomatic breakthrough in December.

Washington said last week it would respond through diplomatic channels to Venezuela’s demand for it to cut the U.S. Embassy’s staff in Caracas after the government called for a plan within 15 days to reduce staff to 17 from 100 at the American facility.

Commercial ties between Venezuela and the United States have largely been unaffected by diplomatic flare-ups, which were common during Chavez’s 14-year-rule.

The United States is Venezuela’s top trading partner, and the OPEC member in 2014 remained the fourth-largest supplier of crude to the United States at an average of 733,000 barrels per day – despite a decade-long effort by Caracas to diversify its oil shipments to China and India.

Opposition leader and twice-presidential candidate Henrique Capriles told Reuters the sanctions were a problem for a corrupt elite in the Maduro government, but not ordinary Venezuelans.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton, additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth, Alexandra Ulmer and Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas; Editing by G Crosse, Paul Tait and

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