35,000 Venezuelans cross Colombian border to buy food, medicine

Colombian street vendor (L) sells his products at the Colombian-Venezuelan border in Cucuta, Colombia, July 16, 2016 © Carlos Eduardo Ramirez
Some 35,000 Venezuelans entered Colombia to buy food and medicine after Venezuelan authorities briefly opened the border between the two countries following a year-long shutdown amid a severe economic crisis.

Colombia’s foreign ministry said that the Venezuelans arrived “in an orderly manner and under conditions of security,” AP reported.

The governor of Venezuela’s state of Tachira, Jose Vielma, said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had approved the opening and warned that people should not be “disturbed” when entering Colombia.

The border remained open for about eight hours on Saturday and is set to re-open on Sunday.

The Colombian defense minister, Luis Carlos Villegas, said “we have made a great effort to have sufficient supplies” for Venezuelans.

However, some businesses in the Colombian border city of Cucuta were taken by surprise as tens of thousands poured into the country because it had been announced earlier that the border would be open only on Sunday.

This is not the first time the border between the two countries has been opened. Last week, the border was open for 12 hours, allowing about 35,000 people to go through.

Before the border was sealed, over 100,000 people used the two main crossings every day. Afterwards, the number dropped to 3,000 people per day, most of them students and ill people who were provided with special day passes. The numbers were provided by non-profit organizations working in the area, as quoted by AP.

Venezuela has been affected by falling oil prices and seen severe shortages of basic goods for months.

President Maduro has accused his opponents of causing the economic chaos to ensure his ouster, while his opponents accuse his government of severe economic mismanagement that has forced people to cross the border to buy basic provisions.
Venezuela closed the border about a year ago in order to crack down on smugglers of goods and gasoline.