The Bogota airport for calm flights is surreal at bristles in the morning, abnormally afterwards an all night flight. Downstairs is a arcade capital with automated tellers, and an arrangement of alternation fast-food cafes and bakeries. At this hour the best accepted is Juan Valdez, the Starbucks a la Colombiana, area bleary, red-eyed travelers band up in the hopes of blockage alive addition few hours. It’s bodice acclimate for an East San Francisco Bay Area charlatan so the woman captivated in a bottomward coat, a scarf, a absolute cap pulled bottomward to her eyebrows, and abundant atramentous absolute gloves enters from a altered apple and walks bound up the stairs, conceivably to balmy herself up, conceivably to bolt a flight.
I usually avenue my trips to Venezuela through Bogota to abstain the hundreds of dollars in taxes the Bolivarian government lays on air travelers to Venezuela: Bogota turns out to be bisected the price. Alike including a annular cruise flight to Cucuta. From Cucuta it’s a brace of hours negotiating the bound and six hours from San Cristóbal to Mérida by bus, so the biking time is about the same, or below acquisition through Caracas and demography a fourteen-hour bus cruise to Mérida.
What I hadn’t counted on was the actuality that the Venezuelan government would on an aboveboard whim adjudge to abutting the borders about a anniversary afore the elections. Accession in Cúcuta, I hailed a cab and an old man who alien himself as Geronimo loaded my attache in his block as I climbed in the aback seat. I told him I was on my way to the bound and he said it was closed.
“What do you mean, ‘closed,’” I asked.
“Si señor,” he said, “the Venezuelan government bankrupt it yesterday. But we’ll go and see if we can get you above over the river. I accept a acquaintance who can do that.”
“Why did they abutting it off?”
“Because that Maduro doesn’t appetite Venezuelans to go in and vote.”
“You beggarly the Venezuelans active in Colombia?”
“Exacto. He knows they’ll vote for Capriles, so he’s bound them out.”
“How does he apperceive they’ll vote for Capriles?” I asked.
Geronimo shrugged. “Well, if they larboard Venezuela, they apparently didn’t like that process, right? So they’ll go aback to try to vote out those scoundrels.”
I had no bigger approach to propose, amid the abounding I would arrangement in the abutting few hours, so I larboard it there and began allurement about the amount of the bolivar.
“It’s altered prices for dollars than for [Colombian] pesos. But with 900 pesos ($5.00 US) you get 100 bolivars. But you shouldn’t change until you cross.”
“What will the elections do to the amount of the bolivar?” I asked.
“Well, depends on who wins. If Capriles wins, the amount of the bolivar will go up. If Maduro wins, it’ll accumulate activity down.”
I absitively to bet on Maduro and delay to change money if I wasn’t able to cantankerous today. And as it angry out, that was the case. At the DAS (Colombian immigration) they banned to accord me an avenue stamp. The official smiled and said, “Sir, if we accord you an avenue acceptance you’re stuck, because the Venezuelan arrangement of clearing on the added ancillary is bankrupt until afterwards the elections.” I asked him why he anticipation Venezuela had bankrupt their bound and he shrugged. “They do things. Lots of aberrant things. I don’t apperceive why. All I apperceive is what they say, that they’re closing the borders for the elections.” He shrugged and smiled again.
Geronimo took me aback into boondocks and on the way I absitively to go to Pamplona rather than absorb time in Cúcuta. Cúcuta, aback included in guidebooks, which is attenuate in itself, is declared as “hot and dusty” and the writers go on to accent that “there’s absolutely no acumen to visit” this anarchic bound burghal added than to see the charcoal of Santander’s abode abreast the border. Pamplona, on the added hand, was already declared to me by a baby acquaintance in Merida as commodity like a abate adaptation of Merida, tucked abroad in the mountains.
I accustomed in Pamplona and got a auberge allowance and anon alleged a acquaintance who works in a Chavista media accommodating in Caracas to let him apperceive I wouldn’t be accession as planned. My acquaintance is an absolute sort, and one absolutely willing, in accustomed times, to catechism everything. But these are not accustomed times; this is balloter division and his approach of why the bound was bankrupt was alike harder for me to absorb than Geronimo’s. We begin anniversary added on chat.
“The government has bound up the borders.”
“No, it was the CNE (the Civic Balloter Council).”
I didn’t buy that. They don’t accept the power.
“Why?” I asked
“Because of the paramilitaries alternating the border. They’re aggravating to accumulate them out so they won’t appear to Venezuela to vote.”
“Come on man. You don’t accept that do you?” I wrote. “Do you absolutely accept the paramilitaries booty out visas to cantankerous the border?”
“Some do,” he replied.
I absitively it was time to acquisition some added aboveboard approach for the abrupt cease of the Venezuelan bound about a anniversary afore the elections. I went a block bottomward to the axial esplanade of Pamplona, the centermost of the city, and accustomed aloof in time to buy the aftermost archetype of the bounded paper, “La Opinion.”
The bound closing was front-page news. The advance commodity appear “The bound bankrupt until Monday” and below that apprehend the headline, “Supply of Gas is Guaranteed.” The advertence actuality is to the atramentous bazaar gas from Venezuela, area it sells for about US $.25 per gallon, which is banned above the bound and awash all up and bottomward the artery alfresco of Cúcuta for a few dollars a gallon (less than the absolute amount in Colombia area the amount is college than it is in the United States. This gets to the appropriate attributes of the “black market” that has near-official cachet in Colombia.
Inside, folio eight agitated a full-page commodity accent “Venezuela Closes its Bound for Six Days” with images of hundreds of bodies aggregate in beef afore the barbed-wire fence abaft which angle Venezuelan civic guard. In the commodity bylined Jairo Andres Navarro Camargo, Venezuela bankrupt the bound at bristles a.m. on Tuesday, April 9. Nevertheless, he continued, “without absorption for nationality, nor political preference, hundreds of Venezuelans and Colombians were bent by abruptness by the accepted closing of the border, which they able as adverse and arbitrary.” The belief of bodies afflicted by the bound closing were affective and generally painful. “‘My bedmate is clumsy to angle up. We accept an burning charge to get home,’ a Venezuelan woman cried at the soldiers who bound themselves to watching abaft the acid wire. And she added, ‘I’m Venezuelan. I’m a Chavista, but it hurts me that they’re accomplishing this to us. We had to go to Cúcuta to buy anesthetic because actuality (in San Antonio) [on the Venezuelan side] we accept nothing.’”
Camargo declared a “human beachcomber arrant out and with signs, assuming their character cards (cedulas) to prove they were Venezuelan, and allurement [the soldiers] to acquiesce the elderly, the sick, and the accouchement to be accustomed to pass. Some were abiding to their home country by canoe, as Geronimo had proposed to get me above until it was axiomatic I wouldn’t be able to get a acceptance in Venezuela. Those arch in canoes were advantageous 50 bolivars, according to abounding who had crossed.
The governor of the Venezuelan accompaniment of Táchira, which borders Santander on the Colombian side, said, “the Ministry of the Interior and Justice absitively to defended the bound amid Colombia and Venezuela in the accompaniment of Táchira, to assure Venezuelan citizens from non-national (apátrida) votes.” The rumors put alternating by the Chavista camp, then, are that Colombians in the pay of the action are actuality recruited to access Venezuela to vote for Capriles on Sunday.
I alarm addition acquaintance in Venezuela to get his booty on the bearings with the bound closure. He’s an honest Chavista, one of thousands. But a Chavista. “Yes, they bent thirty Colombian paramilitaries,” he tells me. I say aback I see their faces and accept their names, I’ll accept it, but that there are problems with the story.
I ask him, “when you go to vote, do they ask you for your cedula (national ID card)?”
“Yes, and you accept to be on the rolls with your abode and it all has to bout up,” he says.
“So do you anticipate the Colombian ‘apatridas’ are on the rolls? Do you anticipate they accept ‘cedulas’?”
“No, of advance not.”
So abundant for that story. AFP reports that Maduro bankrupt the borders with Colombia and Brazil due to a US artifice to use Salvadoran hit men to annihilate him. It’s difficult to apperceive what to accept aback Maduro has referred to a cardinal of plots for which he has offered no evidence, the best advancing actuality that the US “infected” the backward Admiral Hugo Chavez with cancer. Surely he knows that creating paranoia rallies the masses about the banderole and it’s a abundant way to get bodies to vote for you if they anticipate you’ll avert them from the enemy. It formed for Bush (remember all those Al-Qaeda “sleeper cells” allegedly abnormality zombie-like about the US, aloof cat-and-mouse to be activated?) it formed for Obama (isn’t Iran advancing to advance us? Doesn’t, and maybe it will assignment for Maduro.
In his defense, at atomic Maduro has a aboveboard adversary in the United States government, the bigger Mafia-terrorist alignment in history. If you charge examples to aback up that statement, you charge be new to CounterPunch, and I’ll aloof accredit you to William Blum’s books (like “Killing Hope”) or any cardinal of added books to verify that account above a doubt. Still, that Maduro would stoop to the akin of Obama and Bush charge in itself be advancing to those who hoped the Bolivarian Revolution would be different. I am one of them. Yet it’s ambiguous whether or not Maduro could ability the base of moral abandonment of any one of our contempo presidents in the US accustomed Venezuela’s rather limited, and all-embracing positive, role in adopted affairs. And he still represents a bigger best than the prototypal absolutist Enrique Capriles, the applicant of, by and for the Venezuelan oligarchy.
Theories, affidavit and belief of all sorts aside, the six-day barricade is accepting affecting furnishings on the bodies acclimated to walking aback and alternating after difficulty, bodies like Alicia Acevedo de Barajas and her bedmate Jose Vicente, 71 years old. They’re from Venezuelans from Caracas and, according to La Opinion, they went to arrangement a brother who is ailing in Cúcuta. Jose suffers from a bookish affliction and needs appropriate care, as able-bodied as connected medical attention. They begged the aggressive to let them acknowledgment home for a doctor’s appointment. They had alone abundant money for one night in a auberge room. On Thursday the 11th of April they were adverse a day and a night outdoors, sleeping on the arch with others who don’t accept the agency to hire a auberge room. This brace clearly wasn’t present aback the Venezuelan aggressive accustomed a final casual of some children, elders and ailing April 9 at nine p.m. Now they face canicule to bulwark for themselves alternating with hundreds of others as they delay for the abutting Venezuelan president, acceptable the one who ordered them kept there, to acquiesce them to acknowledgment home.
Clifton Ross is the writer, administrator and ambassador of the feature-length documentary, “Venezuela: Revolution from the Inside Out” (2008 PM Press) and co-editor with Marcy Rein of “Until the Rulers Obey: Voices from Latin American Social Movements” due out in November 2013 with PM Press. He can be accomplished at clifross1(at)yahoo.com.
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