Venezuelans pour into Colombia again as border briefly reopens

SAN ANTONIO DEL TACHIRA, Venezuela – Thousands of Venezuelans again poured into the Colombian city of Cucuta on Sunday, July 17, profiting from the brief reopening of a long-closed border to buy food and medicine.

Border crossings over two international bridges were opened in early morning without restrictions, although identity cards were checked.

The authorities from the Venezuelan National Guard, police from both countries and consular authorities were on hand to help control the flow of people.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had ordered the border closing in August 2015 after an alleged Colombian paramilitary unit attacked a Venezuelan military patrol, leaving 3 people wounded and raising tensions between the two governments.

The reopening of the border had originally been planned for Sunday, but Maduro's government moved it up a day, allowing thousands of Venezuelans to pour into Cucuta on Saturday, July 16.

The influx has come during a 40-day freight truckers' strike in Colombia, which heightened fears that shortages could hit major cities including Cucuta.

Venezuela has suffered crippling shortages for months, a ripple effect from the falling price of oil, the country's primary export. Critics also blame grave mishandling of the state-led economy.

Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas has said that security forces would guarantee the arrival of supplies for Cucuta's residents as well as for Venezuelan shoppers.

During a first brief border opening on July 10, an estimated 35,000 Venezuelans poured across a pedestrian bridge connecting the Venezuelan city of San Antonio del Tachira to the outskirts of Cucuta. – Rappler.com