Americas, Colombia, Venezuela, Politics

Colombia-Venezuela Border Closes Amid Tensions

Venezuela and Colombia are two countries located in the northern South America, with an international border of 2,219 kilometers (1379 miles) that was demarcated by two treaties.

The first one was established by the Queen of Spain Maria Cristina in 1891, and the second one by the Border Treaty and River Navigation of 1941. Nevertheless, there are still territorial disputes on the border of the Gulf of Venezuela.

Nowadays, the border between Colombia and Venezuela is considered as one of the most dangerous in the world. Along those 2,219 kilometers, there are zones which are plagued by clandestine paths where paramilitarism, drug traffickers and smugglers cross from one side to the other every day. The presence of paramilitaries and guerrilla groups is a consequence of the low – intensity war that has developed in Colombia since the 1960’s up to the present day. The drug trafficking is related to irregular armed groups because it is one their ways to obtain funds for them to get weapons and supplies, keeping their operations in Colombia and around its border with Venezuela. These illegal groups have been accused by the governments of both countries of crimes such as murder, kidnapping, drug trafficking and extortion.

On the other hand, there is another constant problem on the border, and that’s smuggling. Every day, a lot of food and gasoline, which is subsidized by the Venezuelan government, is illegally moved from Venezuela to Colombia causing large losses to the State, besides the shortage in supermarkets, shops and services stations. This has occasioned a pretty ironic situation in Venezuela: it is really hard to find the staple aliments or personal hygiene products, and when you finally find them in some supermarket, there is a long line of people waiting to buy the same things. But once you cross the border and get to the Colombian side, if you look around you’ll be able to see a lot of informal markets on the streets, full of these products and food made in Venezuela, subsidized by the Venezuelan State or even tagged with the distinction “Only to be sold in Venezuela”. This is only possible due to smuggling.

In this complex context, since October of 2014, the President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, ordered to restrict the passage to everyone, by land, air or waterway at night time. However, the situation became even more unstable when a command of the Venezuelan National Guard doing intelligence work to fight against the smugglers was attacked with firearms on August 19th, 2015, leaving three soldiers and one civilian seriously injured. The next day, August 20th, the Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, ordered the closure of the border with Colombia for the next 72 hours in the Táchira state in order to capture the perpetrators of the gunfire attack. Bogotá has described this decision as “sovereign”.

On Friday, August 21st, the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, declared a state of emergency for 60 days in the municipalities of Bolivar, Ureña, Junin, Capacho,Libertad, Capacho and Independencia de Táchira. That same day, 1,500 troops of the FANB (Bolivarian National Armed Force) were deployed on the border area. On Tuesday, August 25th there were more than a thousand illegal citizens deported to Colombia.

Additionally, it must be noted that these measures taken by the Venezuelan government are necessary because an important part of the shortage problem in Venezuela is caused by extraction contraband. Nevertheless, it is also necessary to appeal to the international organizations like UN, OEA or Human Rights Watch for them to warrant the respect for human rights of the Colombian citizens in Venezuela.

About Jhonny Rivero

Jhonny is a 24-year-old social science teacher at an educational institute in Venezuela. He works as a freelance writer with experience in writing articles for blogs and websites. He’s also a singer and a multi–instrumentalist musician. Jhonny enjoys working as a writer and also creating music, and he is currently studying English at the British Council of Venezuela.

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