Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela state under martial law against smugglers

Members of the National Venezuelan Guard (GNB) stand guard at the border between Venezuela and Colombia at international bridge Union that remains closed in La Fria, Venezuela, 21 August 2015. Image copyright EPA
Image caption At least 1,500 extra Venezuelan troops are being sent to the border

The Venezuelan president has declared a state of emergency in a border region near Colombia following an attack by smugglers in which three soldiers and a civilian were injured.

Nicolas Maduro said there would be 60 days of martial law in five municipalities in the state of Tachira.

He also said the closure of the border, announced on Thursday, would be extended until further notice.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has criticised the move.

Mr Santos said ordinary people on both sides of the border, including children, would suffer the most.

"If we co-operate, the only ones to lose are the criminals, but if the border is closed, there is no co-ordination and the only ones to gain are the criminals," said Mr Santos.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Colombian president said ordinary people from both sides of the border would be the worst affected

Petrol and food smugglers have increasingly clashed with Venezuelan officers.

The BBC's Daniel Pardo in Venezuela reports that Mr Maduro said Colombian paramilitary groups regularly travel to Venezuela, generating chaos and shortages in order to destabilise the revolution.

Mr Maduro said an extra 1,500 soldiers had arrived to reinforce the area.

"This decree provides ample power to civil and military authorities to restore peace," he said in a broadcast on state television.

On Wednesday, three Venezuelan army officers and a civilian were injured in riots with smugglers.

Venezuela closed its border with Colombia for the first time last year.

Tensions run high along the porous 2,200-kilometre (1,370-mile) border.

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