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8 Jun, 2019 07:06

Maduro opens border with Colombia, shut down over opposition’s aid-smuggling attempt

Maduro opens border with Colombia, shut down over opposition’s aid-smuggling attempt

Three months after violent clashes broke out at the Colombia-Venezuela border, followed by the opposition’s attempt to smuggle in ‘aid,’ Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ordered border crossings to be partially reopened.

Maduro announced on Friday that the border with Colombia, which has remained closed since late February, will be reopened in western Tachira State on Saturday.

READ MORE: Red Cross denounces unsanctioned use of its emblems to smuggle US aid to Venezuela

“In order to fully ensure our sovereignty, I have ordered the opening of border crossings with Colombia in the state of Tachira beginning on Saturday, June 8,” Maduro tweeted, adding that Venezuela is a “peaceful nation” that “firmly defends its independence.”

In February, the Francisco de Paula Santander Bridge over the Tachira River, which connects Colombia to Venezuela, became the scene of a showdown between opposition forces trying to make way for the ‘aid’ trucks and the National Guard. Images of an ‘aid truck’ engulfed in flames on the bridge became the symbol of Caracas’ crackdown, until around a month later when the mainstream media was forced to admit that the truck was in effect torched by protesters. 

Also on rt.com Colombia harbors Venezuelan opposition, opens doors to defectors

Prior to the botched attempt to deliver ‘aid’, which Caracas later said included wire and nails that could have been used to erect barricades, tensions were already running high at the crossing. In the run-up to the attempt to smuggle in the cargo, Maduro closed the border, severing diplomatic relations with Colombia and expelling its diplomats from the country.

Calling Colombian President Ivan Duque “a devil in the flesh,” Maduro accused Bogota of meddling in Caracas’ internal affairs by allowing the US and the opposition to turn the country into a springboard for attacking his government.

The decision to reopen a section of the border with Colombia follows Maduro’s decisions last month to reopen the border with Brazil and the Caribbean island of Aruba, which were also closed amid concerns the opposition would attempt to breach them on the pretext of bringing in ‘humanitarian convoys’.

Caracas dismissed the aid deliveries as a PR stunt aimed at fomenting tension and possibly being a cover for trafficking arms to the opposition. The maritime and air border with the Dutch island of Curacao and the island of Bonaire, both located 80km (50 miles) off Venezuela’s coast, remains sealed since February. Speaking in May, Venezuelan Vice President of the Economy Tareck El Aissami said that the border with Colombia and the islands would remain locked down “until the hostility and enabling of paramilitary groups to attack our people cease.” 

It comes as the opposition movement in Venezuela seems to be losing momentum after a failed coup attempt on April 30, which exposed the lack of support for the opposition cause among the military. A recently leaked audio recording of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has revealed that the opposition is deeply fragmented, and the US efforts to unite it under one banner have so far borne little fruit. 

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