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Friday, August 28, 2015

Border Cleansing: This is What Happens When You Build a Wall

  Venezuela has closed its contentious and long-problematic border with Colombia, deporting hundreds of illegal immigrants and announcing it will demolish homes and businesses that have existed for decades. The announcement by President Nicolás Maduro is his latest attempt to respond to the disastrous economic situation in the country and divert the nation's attention from his government's inept handling of the economy and its divisive social policies.
  If there is a country in Latin America where the possibility of a 21st Century military coup d'etat is likely, it is Venezuela. Maduro's predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chávez, a coup plotter himself when he was in uniform, was very good at managing the internal dynamics of the Armed Forces, paying off, promoting, purging or intimidating those at the highest levels of military authority in order to consolidate and guarantee his control over the regime. But Maduro is not that smart. He must be looking over his shoulder as he tries to manage the deteriorating situation.
  The Venezuela-Colombia border has long been a region characterized by a Wild West reality: armed paramilitary groups, ranchers and farmers who are as likely to carry (and use) weapons as they are plows or tractors; guerrillas intent on toppling the regime in Bogotá; drug and arms smugglers; human traffickers; and the whole host of commercial activities (empanada sales, the sex traffic, etc.) that feed off of all of those. Today, the region has become a flashpoint -- for a bi-national conflict and the painful disruption of people's lives -- that will continue as long as Maduro holds power.
  If Donald Trump or any other Republican or Democrat in the United States wants to know what it would be like to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and to treat Mexico's people as the enemy, they need only look at the what is happening in Cúcuta, Venezuela.

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