Bogotá, August 27 (teleSUR-RHC)-- Colombian Senator Ivan Cepeda told a local radio on Wednesday that he agrees paramilitary groups have extended their reach into other countries, notably neighboring Venezuela, which decided to close its border with Colombia in an effort to combat the threat of these illegal armed groups.
"We draw attention to the export of paramilitarism, that's not a made-up thing, it is not the product of the fevered imagination of any president in Latin America, it is a fact, there are paramilitary groups operating on our borders and the Colombian drug trade has become transnational," Cepeda told RCN radio.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the border with Colombia closed last week after Colombian paramilitaries attacked Venezuelan soldiers who were patrolling the border. Critics have suggested that President Maduro is exaggerating the presence of paramilitaries within Venezuela's border to distract from internal issues such as the lack of certain products inside the country. Cepeda's comments appeared to be a direct response to those criticisms.
Meanwhile, political opponents of the Maduro government have tried to take advantage of the present border issues. Colombia’s far-right former President Alvaro Uribe, a vocal critic of both Maduro and the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, even traveled to the border region to foment unrest.
Colombian Senator Cepeda also struck out at Uribe and his ally, Attorney General Alejandro Ordoñez, for suggesting that, as a result of the border issue, Venezuela withdraw from its role as an observer of the ongoing peace talks between the Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
Venezuelan President Maduro also declared a state of exception in a handful of municipalities on the border in order to address the presence of paramilitaries within Venezuela's borders.
Venezuelan officials say that paramilitary groups are not only involved in violent crimes throughout the country, but also are heavily involved in smuggling operations, which are negatively impacting Venezuela's economy.
Many basic goods are subsidized by the socialist government in order to ensure low-income population can afford them, however these are smuggled over the border to Colombia and sold at inflated prices for a considerable profit margin.
The foreign ministers of Colombia and Venezuela met Wednesday in Cartagena as part of an effort to find a peaceful solution to border situation.