Published On: Sun, Jan 7th, 2018

Venezuela unilaterally closes border with the ABC islands for 72 hours

Venezuela background wallORANJESTAD – Venezuela unilaterally stopped all air and sea traffic with the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao) for 72 hours, CaribischNetwerk reported on its website on Saturday. On Aruba this measure by the Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro is immediately noticeable. Venezuelans have the greatest difficulty to fly back home and local retailers are preparing for expensive purchase of vegetables and fruit elsewhere.

Maduro said on Friday on Telesur, the state-owned tv station in Venezuela, that he stopped commercial traffic with the ABC islands because of the “smuggling of goods from the country by mafia on the islands.” The current, acute scarcity in Venezuela is a direct consequence of this smuggling and Maduro demands measures.

‘If the measure is extended, there is reason for panic’

Fruits & Vegetables stand Aruba

Photo caption: 70 percent of the fruit and vegetables that Antonio Franken sells comes from Venezuela.

Antonio Franken runs Fruteria Virgilio, where fruit, vegetables and food are sold. 70 percent of his fruit and vegetables come from Venezuela. If the traffic stop actually stays at 72 hours, then the damage for him and all other fruterias and supermarkets is limited. “Then it will be until Wednesday until we have stuff from Venezuela again, because the supply of the inland to Punto Fijo will not start again until Monday.”

If the measure is extended, there is reason for panic, says Franken. “We can then get fruit and vegetables from places like the Dominican Republic, but they arrive with the container and then the prices go up by 30 to 40 percent at once.”

Aruba wants to work together
This morning, Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes announced that Aruba had contact with the Venezuelan authorities about the measure in the Kingdom and that the countries of the Kingdom were in close contact with each other about the developments. Wever-Croes also repeated once again the ‘Venezuelan worries’ about smuggling of goods and precious materials to Aruba is understandable. She wants to work with the neighboring country to combat this smuggling.

Stranded passengers
The measure also has consequences for passenger flights to and from Venezuela. Flights to Aruba only have Arubans on board and goods purchased in Venezuela such as medicines are confiscated. Regarding flights to Venezuela, not everything is as clear or well arranged. Private flights have been cancelled. Aruba Airlines has scheduled a flight for Saturday night, but at the check-in counter they are doubtful whether the flight will go ahead. Aserca Airlines will not fly back to Venezuela until Monday.

Gustavio Zavala and family

Photo caption: Gustavo Zavala and his family are stranded in Aruba. Photo: Ariën Rasmijn.

Airline company Albatros has cancelled all flights until further notice, so that passengers like Gustavo Zavala and his family from Punto Fijo are stranded on Aruba. “Now we do not know when our airline has a flight back. We have no place to spend the night. I am going to the Consulate now to see if they can help me there.” Once at the Consulate in Oranjestad, Zavala and his children meet a closed door.

‘Very negative impact’
Wever-Croes emphasizes that there are ‘close economic, family and cultural ties’ between the ABC islands and Venezuela. “The unilateral closing of the border has a very negative impact on our island.”

Source: CaribischNetwerk | January 6, 2018 | Ariën Rasmijn