Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Deploys Army to Deport Colombians

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from The Wall Street Journal,

President’s critics say he is seeking scapegoat as he deports more than 1,000 citizens of neighboring country.

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro, struggling with falling approval ratings and a deepening economic crisis, has found what critics say is a convenient scapegoat for his country’s woes: neighboring Colombia.

In recent days, Venezuela deported more than 1,000 Colombian citizens and closed key border crossings in the frontier state of Táchira, where Mr. Maduro declared martial law in several municipalities. The actions were allegedly aimed at cracking down on rampant smuggling of price-controlled Venezuelan goods into Colombia, a flow that aggravates shortages in Venezuela.

Venezuela’s armed forces were also deployed to root out what the government called a host of illegal activity. Mr. Maduro blamed that on what he said was an inflow of more than 10,000 Colombian immigrants a month.

Government figures show considerable movement both ways across the border, with Colombians crossing over to buy subsidized goods even as some Venezuelans go the other way toward Colombia’s more robust economy.

The emergency decree in Táchira, details of which were printed in Venezuela’s Official Gazette on Monday, bans unauthorized public assembly or protest, gives authorities free range for warrantless search and seizure and heavily restricts cross-border commercial activity.

“Who comes over from Colombia? It’s people practically without education,” Mr. Maduro said in a televised address last week. “I’m not offending Colombia, I’m just telling a truth…From Colombia, all of the poverty and misery is coming over with a people who are escaping for economic needs and fleeing war.”

Caracas-based rights group Provea called the president’s comments “a dangerous campaign of xenophobia against Colombians residing in Venezuela.”

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