Veneuela President Nicolas Maduro has ordered the shutdown of all air and sea links to three island nations for three days, citing illegal trafficking of goods and resources.
Maduro made the declaration late Friday in a televised appearance. He said the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao had been running black markets by taking gold, diamonds, copper and food products from Venezuela and selling them illegally.
He said organized crime rings were “waging war on our electricity. They steal our copper and they sell it illegally.”
The Caribbean islands, known as the “ABC islands” because of their first initials, are a short distance from Venezuela’s northern coast. They are a popular landing site for Venezuelans fleeing the country’s food shortages.
This is not the first time Maduro has closed borders during times when the nation is under duress. He shut the border with Colombia in 2015 and again in 2016, alleging Colombian mobsters were hoarding Venezuelan currency.
Critics of Maduro’s border closures say they do little to stop illegal trade, but are effective at keeping Venezuelans from leaving the country to buy supplies during shortages.