(CNSNews.com) – Venezuela's Socialist president vowed to continue his crackdown on illegal aliens after closing a major border crossing with neighboring Colombia last week and ordering the deportation of 1,000 Colombians living illegally in his country.
The crackdown was triggered by the recent shooting of three Venezuelan soldiers who were searching for smugglers in the state of Tachira, which is located near Venezuela’s 1,400-mile border with Colombia.
“Venezuela won’t tolerate this anymore,” President Nicolas Maduro said during a two-hour press conference on Monday, according to the Associated Press.
He blamed Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for crimes committed in Venezuela by paramilitary gangs, calling his counterpart a “nefarious paramilitary boss” and an “assassin.”
Maduro previously claimed that illegal immigrants were bringing “poverty and misery” with them.
“Who comes over from Colombia? It’s people practically without education,” the Venezuelan president said in a televised address to the nation, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“I’m not offending Colombia, I’m just telling a truth…From Colombia, all of the poverty and misery is coming over with a people who are escaping for economic needs and fleeing war.”
Provea, a human rights group headquartered in Caracas, called Maduro’s comments “a dangerous campaign of xenophobia against Colombians residing in Venezuela.”
With an economy already in shambles after 16 years of socialism under Maduro and former president Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has been hit hard by the steep decrease in crude oil prices, which fell below $40 a barrel for the first time since 2009 and are down 57 percent since this same time last year.
Inflation in the South American country is now believed to be in the triple-digits, and chronic shortages of food and medicine at government-run stores are exacerbated by the smuggling of price-controlled goods such as gasoline and flour into Colombia.
A widely circulated photo shows a Venezuelan using the national currency, a bolivar, as a napkin to hold a greasy empanada.
“Venezuela’s currency is worth less than a napkin,” CNN Money reported.
Adding to its economic woes, the country has a debt payment of $4 billion looming in October, leading to concerns that the Venezuelan government could default on its obligations.