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article imageExtrajudicial killings in Venezuela catches the eye of the UN

By Karen Graham     Aug 31, 2015 in World
Many Venezuelans are probably wondering today just who is in charge of their country. Is it President Maduro, or the military? With the border fight still going on with Colombia, things have gone from bad to worse today.
Call it a combination of issues, and that would be correct when trying to figure out what's going on in Venezuela today. With oil prices still in the gutter, the oil-rich country is now oil-poor. But gangs, on both sides of the border, seem to be running things.
President Nicholas Maduro, back from a visit to Vietnam, claims that enemies in Colombia have been trying to assassinate him, even though he has presented no proof, but, he says he will prove it, none the less. The border war with their neighbor has been escalating this past week, and diplomats from both countries will address representatives from 34 Western Hemisphere nations at an OAS emergency meeting in Washington.
Maduro closed the border between Venezuela and Colombia because of a growing black market. While trying to set austerity measures in place in Venezuela, with government control of foods and merchandise, people were selling goods on the black market into Colombia. It was apparently very lucrative, especially when the many gangs in the two countries got their hands on the contraband.
Some of the 1 088 Colombians deported from Venezuela last week in the wake of the border closing.
Some of the 1,088 Colombians deported from Venezuela last week in the wake of the border closing.
Smuggling closed the border
Fox News Latino is reporting today that Maj. Gen. Efrain Velazquez Lugo, the top military officer on the border with Colombia said, "The paramilitary activities along the border posed a threat to the security of the nation ... (that) managed to affect the (Venezuelan) state."
Maduro had the 1,378-mile long border closed 10 days ago after suspected smugglers shot and killed three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. "Having weapons, grenades and arms of all sorts, that is terrorism. Imposing an agenda of terror whereby our people are afraid, those are terrorist actions, and that is going on in San Antonio del Tachira and all along the border where they are present," Velazquez said.
Velazquez mentioned two of the largest Colombian gangs, Los Urabeños and Los Rastrojos. They are made up of former members of the AUC militia federation, and are active on both land and the sea. Since August 19, the Venezuelan military has arrested 32 of these suspected paramilitaries.
No human rights in 'Operation Liberate the People'
Gangs, there are more gangs than you could count in Venezuela. The country is run by them, through terror, fear and a culture of impunity, meaning most murders never get solved. A recently initiated crime-fighting program called "Operation Liberate the People" was thought by many to be a needed and good way of cleaning up the streets.
But interestingly, the police and military set human rights aside in their fervor to rid the streets of criminals, often carrying out summary executions. The program, which started in July, has already resulted in 80 suspected criminals being shot and killed by police.
And while most people are accepting of the way the police are handling the gangs, it is the human rights groups that are complaining. "The police and the thugs are one and the same here," said Willy Contreras, according to the Associated Press. Contreras works beside a courtyard where four men were recently killed. "Neither side cares about human rights. And we can't, either. Killing the criminals is the only way to make sure they won't just go free."
But the extrajudicial killings taking place in Venezuela has doubled since last year, and the United Nations is now looking closely at the country. The U.N. Committee Against Torture has called on Venezuela to investigate the killings.
More about venezuela falling apart, colombian border, Police shootings, crime crackdown, gangs of venezuela
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