Venezuela’s government has announced the creation of a new police force to strengthen border controls as thousands of people continue to flee the country’s spiralling political and economic crises.
In a televised address on Friday, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said the new Migration Force will start taking control of Venezuela’s 72 official entry and exit points “immediately”.
She added that the specialised force would reinforce the existing controls at ports, airports and border crossings.
It is intended to assist in monitoring migration, according to Rodriguez, who said its establishment will ensure “the truth will come out and not the imperial lies that Washington want to be sold to the world”.
Once one of Latin America’s wealthiest countries, Venezuela has been hit hard by a drop in oil prices from 2014, with the economy further weakening under the fiscal mismanagment of President Nicolas Maduro.
According to the United Nations, more than a million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015, with Colombia being one of the most popular destinations.
The influx has overwhelmed aid agencies and forced new arrivals to set up makeshift tent communities in some parts of the capital, Bogota.
The spreading crisis is also effecting Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and several other American countries.
|Colombian aid agencies are struggling to cope with the influx of Venezuelan refugees and migrants [File: Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]|
Colombia’s President Ivan Duque, a long-standing critic of Maduro, has ramped up his attacks in recent months, branding the Venezuelan governing a “dictatorship” and recently calling Maduro a “devil who hates Venezuela”.
In Friday’s speech, Rodriguez poured bile on Colombia, saying Venezuela was a “victim of a campaign of falsehoods to justifying something that will never happen, an international intervention”.
The Venezuelan government claims to have taken in some eight million Colombians, displaced during Colombia’s decades-long internal warfare between government forces and rebel groups.
Colombia says the figure is closer to 900,000.
Colombia is one of seven countries which issued an unprecedented petition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on September 26 to investigate Maduro for crimes against humanity.
It is the first time ICC member countries have asked for a probe into a fellow member. The investigation was initially proposed by Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Peru, with Canada and France later adding their support.
Maduro has denied any migration crisis, asking the UN to be “more sincere” in its figures. He has also rubbished claims that the chronic lack of food and medicine in Venezuela has led to a humanitarian crisis.
He blames the situation on an “economic war” being waged against Venezuela by the US and other foreign powers.
In September, it was revealed that officials from the Trump administration held secret meetings with Venezuelan military officers to discuss plans to overthrow Maduro.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES