Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is extending indefinitely the closure of a popular border crossing with Colombia and declaring a 60-day state of emergency in several western cities.

Maduro earlier in the week announced a 72-hour closure of the normally busy crossing in Tachira state in response to the shooting of three army officers while patrolling for smugglers.

On Friday night he said the crossing would remain closed until the assailants are caught. He says the state of emergency would allow security forces to reassert control over the long-volatile border.

Maduro blames smugglers and paramilitaries from Colombia for violence that has spilled over the 1,400-mile (2,200 kilometer) border in recent years.

Opponents decried Maduro's move and said that it may be an attempt to thwart defeat in upcoming legislative elections.