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LatinNews Daily - 03 June 2021

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COLOMBIA-VENEZUELA: Venezuelan anger at ‘unilateral’ border opening

On 2 June, Venezuela’s foreign ministry rejected Colombia’s “unilateral” decision to reopen border crossings between the two countries.

Analysis:

The Colombia-Venezuela border has been closed since March 2020 to limit the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), and any coordinated attempts to reopen it will be complicated by the severing of diplomatic relations between the two countries in February 2019. Reopening the border is seen as paramount by many Venezuelans who rely on travel to Colombia to obtain supplies, and who have been exposed to extortion when travelling via unofficial border crossings.

  • Venezuela’s foreign ministry criticised Colombia’s “unilateral” decision to open the border, accusing its counterparts of seeking to distract from “ongoing human rights violations” against anti-government protesters in Colombia. Expressing concern that the reopening could intensify Venezuela’s coronavirus epidemic, the foreign ministry called for an “advance in bilateral coordination in security, trade, and health measures, which could eventually lead to a reopening of border crossings that is agreed upon by both countries”.
  • This followed an announcement by Colombia’s interior ministry on 1 June, which ordered the opening of border crossings on the Colombian side from 2 June. Colombia’s migration authorities later announced that entry to the country would be restricted, with those whose identification document ends in odd and even numbers allowed to enter on consecutive days.
  • Venezuela’s de facto government has come under criticism from the political opposition for not reciprocating the border opening on the Venezuelan side. Former national deputy Karim Vera, who lost her seat for Primero Justicia in the national assembly after boycotting the December 2020 legislative elections, said that Venezuela’s migration authorities are taking bribes to allow travellers to cross the border via unofficial routes.
  • Venezuela’s refusal to open its side of the border was also criticised by Javier Tarazona, the director of Venezuelan NGO Fundaredes, who said that preventing people from crossing the border was a “criminal act” given that “thousands of people need to buy medicines, food, and basic products that can’t be found in the country”, and that those crossing illegally are being extorted by criminal groups.

Looking Ahead: Venezuela has given no indication of a timeframe for opening its side of the border. In reality, border crossings are likely to resume apace, with travellers registering on the Colombian side and illegally entering and exiting Venezuela.