Venezuelans Cross into Colombia Due to Food ShortagesJuly 15, 2016 in Colombia, Venezuela
Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have crossed to neighbouring Colombia to buy basic goods amid shortages during a brief opening of the border. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro authorized a 12 hour opening of the bridge that connects Tachira, Venezuela, and Cucuta, Colombia. According to the director of the Colombian border authority, an estimated 35.000 Venezuelans arrived in Cucuta. The border was closed in August 2015 as a part of a crime crackdown. President Nicolas Maduro ordered the border closure because the region had been infiltrated by Colombian paramilitaries and gangs.
Venezuelans who want to cross into Colombia in states where the border has been closed need a special permit to do so. But as the scarcity of food gets worse in Venezuela, many have crossed the porous border illegally. On July 6, about 500 Venezuelan women in search of food and medicine broke through border controls separating the western state of Tachira from Cucuta. After buying food and other goods which are scarce in Venezuela, they again gathered at the the border post asking the Colombian guards to let them pass. Goods such as rice, sugar, flour, and oil are hard to come by in Venezuela due to a deep economic crisis.
The ministers of defense from Colombia and Venezuela met earlier this months to discuss potentially reopening border gates on the 2.000 kilometres separating the two countries. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin also visited Cucuta last week to push for a reopening.
Demonstrators demanding food have clashed with rioting police in several Venezuelan cities in recent weeks amid demonstrations and looting that have turned deadly. Last month, Venezuelan security forces fired teargas at protesters chanting “We want food!” near the presidential palace in Caracas. National Guard and police officers blocked a road near the Miraflores palace in downtown Caracas, after scores of angry Venezuelans began trying to approach the building.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his cabinet blame the recession on an “economic war” they say is being waged against them by businessmen in league with the opposition. The Venezuelan opposition, however, says the real cause of the crisis is the state-led system defended by late leftist leader Hugo Chavez. After winning control of the legislature in January, the opposition launched its efforts to remove the president, including a bid for a recall referendum.