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Venezuela Extends Air and Maritime Trade Ban With Three Caribbean Islands … Including Aruba

Venezuela has extended its ban on air and maritime ties with three nearby Dutch Caribbean islands, citing out of control smuggling, officials said today.

Venezuela is pressing for high-level talks with leaders of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire before trading can resume, officials said.

Vice President Tareck El Aissami said that leaders of the three islands must step up to control criminal groups that he says are smuggling Venezuelan goods, harming citizens of his country.

“We are not going to allow anymore aggression from these criminal organizations,” El Aissami said on Twitter, urging leaders of the islands to take action.

President Nicolas Maduro on Friday first ordered the 72-hour ban, accusing island leaders of being complicit in illegal trafficking. It follows threats he made in mid-December to close the routes.

Venezuelan authorities allege that the smuggling of products to neighboring countries is one of the causes of the severe shortage of food and other basic products that the South American country has been facing for several years.

The islands popular with tourists lie a short distance from Venezuela’s coast and host oil refineries run by Venezuela’s state oil giant and U.S. subsidiary Citgo.

In recent years, Venezuelans fleeing the nation’s economic collapse have sometimes fled to the islands by boat. In 2015 and 2016, Maduro took a similar measure to combat smuggling, temporarily closing the border crossings with Colombia.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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