MEDELLÍN, Colombia — President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela ordered a temporary shutdown of air and maritime traffic with three Caribbean neighbors on Friday, accusing smugglers there of seeking to plunder his country.
In a televised address, Mr. Maduro said he had halted all flights and ship traffic to Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao for 72 hours. He accused the three countries of running black markets by siphoning everything from copper to food before selling the items.
“They take away gold from this country illegally, and make it legal to sell there; they take away coltan, they take away diamonds, they take away all food products,” Mr. Maduro said. “I didn’t want to take a measure like this one, but I am ready to take even more radical measures.”
The Caribbean islands, which are short distances from Venezuela’s northern coast, have long hosted black markets for Venezuelan contraband, trading everything from illegally mined minerals to narcotics. The countries, however, have become better known under Mr. Maduro’s presidency as the landing site of boats of hungry Venezuelans fleeing their country’s food shortages.
Many refugees have fled illegally, so the closure is unlikely to stop those departures. But it will cut off Venezuelans wishing to travel by air at a time when many airlines refuse to fly to the country because of safety concerns.
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