CUCUTA, Colombia – The lights are starting to come back on in parts of Caracas – Venezuela's capital. But the extended power outage and ongoing food crisis have sent a tidal wave of humanity fleeing the country to neighboring Brazil and Colombia.
Here in the border town of Cucuta, thugs paid by Venezuelan Dictator Nicholas Maduro's regime are targeting people for robbery and kidnapping.
As the US embassy pulled its remaining personnel out of Caracas on Tuesday, this CBN News reporter went back to the border where aid shipments were burned by Venezuelan troops two weeks ago.
The border between Venezuela and Colombia is now officially closed. The bridge that had tens of thousands of people crossing it when I was here two weeks ago is now essentially empty. Now these refugees are finding new ways to cross the border, risking everything to cross in difficult locations. We observed hundreds making a water-crossing.
But crossing illegally is fraught with risk. These people say they are preyed upon by members of criminal biker gangs called Colectivos, who support Nicolas Maduro, and charge a fee or even rob people trying to get across. And they aren't exaggerating.
As I was filming along the riverbank, I was attacked by three men who tried to drag me into Venezuela. There were several signs that these attackers were tied to the regime - for example, they were smoking cigarettes which most Venezuelans can't afford since they're struggling to survive. And this wasn't a robbery attempt since they didn't take my camera and they were literally trying to drag me across the border.
After making a run for the Colombian side of the river bank, I tripped on a rock, fell down and they grabbed me again. They grabbed me by the belt on my pants and were dragging me back into Venezuela. That's when Diego Traverso from Operation Blessing saved my life.
HEAR MORE of Chuck's account from that day on Caitlin Burke's podcast, "The Daily Rundown".
While my camera was broken in the confrontation, I was able to get away from my attackers and they fled back across the river. But it was a powerful lesson in how Maduro's brutal regime uses its power against these people every day.
Chuck Holton is a former Army Ranger and a CBN News contributing correspondent. Please remember to pray for the safety of CBN News correspondents on assignment around the world.