Thousands of Venezuelans crossed into Colombia to buy much-needed food and supplies Saturday, after the border was reopened for the first time in a year, as officials moved to respond to the country’s worsening economic crisis.
In August of 2015, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro ordered the border closed, following an attack by Colombian paramilitaries on a Venezuelan military patrol, which wounded three soldiers.
However, Thursday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and President Maduro agreed to reopen the border.
“We are going to open the border gradually,” Santos stated.
Only pedestrians will currently be able to cross the five separate borders, in light of the country’s financial crisis, which will remain open for 15 hours per day, every day of the week.
According to officials, the borders are presently plagued by long lines which form before dawn, with more than 28,000 people crossing the border in the first few hours it was open on Saturday.
However, border patrolmen said they expect the lines to shorten once Venezuelans realize they now have regular access to Colombian goods and services.
“People can get here, and cross every day of the week now,” Venezuelan border police chief Gustavo Moreno stated.
Venezuela has suffered from severe food shortages in the past few months, due to the falling price of oil, which is the country’s primary source of income.
However, according to Maduro, this is a prime opportunity to mend the strained relationship between the two countries.
“We’re interested in a new beginning in economic and commercial relations with all of Colombia’s productive sectors,” he stated.
Yet, according to analysts, it is too soon to tell whether this will help strengthen Venezuela’s overall economy.