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Venezuela Extends Border Crackdown to 3rd State

Colombian police officers and soldiers patrol the border between Colombia and Venezuela, in Paraguachon, Colombia, Sept. 9, 2015.

President Nicolas Maduro has closed another bridge connecting Venezuela with Colombia as he extends a month-long crackdown on smuggling along the border that has fueled tensions between the two neighbors.

Maduro late Tuesday night said that a state of emergency had been broadened to encompass 10 more municipalities on Venezuela*s western edge, including a few in the state of Apure, the third district to face such restrictions.

While Maduro didn't specifically say he was closing any border crossings, authorities in Colombia said Wednesday that Venezuelan security forces had set up a barricade preventing cars from crossing the Jose Antonio Paez bridge that connects the provincial capital of Arauca with the plains of Apure.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos reacted angrily Wednesday to Maduro's latest move.

“I'll repeat it again: expanding border closures isn't the way to bring about a solution to the problems affecting our border,” Santos said.

Colombia's government has protested the treatment of some 1,500 of its nationals deported under the crackdown. Another 16,000 of the over five million Colombians living in Venezuela have returned voluntarily, saying they fear reprisals.

While Maduro and Santos have both called for direct dialogue to reduce tensions, an attempt by South American neighbors to mediate a solution has so far failed to bring the two leaders together.