Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro has ordered the temporary closure of a major border crossing with Colombia and said on Thursday he would bolster military forces there following an attack on three soldiers who were looking for smugglers.
Maduro announced in a national broadcast that he would “raise the presence of state forces to the maximum” in response to the shooting of two lieutenants and a captain by people who fled on motorcycles.
The president earlier announced a 72-hour closure of a normally busy crossing in western Tachira state, and vowed to mount a special mission to boost protection for Venezuelans living along the 1,400-mile (2,200-kilometer) border.
The area has long been plagued by violence stemming from Colombia’s long-running conflict, the presence of drug-trafficking gangs and now by smugglers of cheap goods from Venezuela.
“We have reached the limit of the aggression by armed groups, of the speculators and smugglers,” Maduro said, referring to people who buy scarce, essential goods that are heavily subsidized by the government and then sell them for inflated prices across the border.