Sunday, July 17, 2016

Venezuela reopens pedestrian border crossing with Colombia

Venezuela on Saturday reopened a pedestrian border crossing into Colombia from San Antonio del Tachira, in the western state of Tachira.

It marked the second time this month the President Nicolas Maduro administration has decided to reopen the crossing, since a group of some 500 women all dressed in white tried to break their way through a military cordon there on July 5.

The women claimed they were desperate to buy basic goods that are unavailable in Venezuela, and the incident was widely reported as a reflection of the deepening economic and humanitarian crisis gripping the country.

Tachira state Governor Jose Vielma Mora has suggested the dramatic scenes have been staged by the political opposition to embarrass the government.

"We aren't going to put up any obstacles ... whoever wants to cross, is going to. But we want to make it clear that there are organized groups in different Venezuelan states that are promoting via social networks plans to transport people. It's like a tour and the opposition is behind it," said the governor.

Last weekend, the government reopened the border for up to 72 hours and as many as 10,000 Venezuelans from different cities passed through, Tachira state Citizen Security Secretary Ramon Cabez said Sunday.

Venezuela first temporarily closed its border with Colombia in August of 2015, after three members of the armed forces were shot and injured while patrolling the area against smugglers.

Contraband trade in fuel and basic items was on the rise, with smuggling rings buying cheap, government-subsidized gasoline and household goods in Venezuela and selling them at much higher prices in Colombia.

Later that month, the government decided to extend the border closure, citing increasing smuggling and paramilitary activity.

The Foreign Affairs ministers of Venezuela and Colombia are to meet to discuss the reopening of the border on Aug. 4.

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