Colombia to seek talks with Venezuela on re-opening border
BOGOTA - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said he would seek talks with Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro aimed at re-opening their border, which Caracas closed in August 2015.
“We’ll talk with President Maduro, with the Venezuelan authorities,” Santos said Wednesday during a visit to the capital of the northeastern province of Norte de Santander, Cucuta, where the countries’ main border crossing is located.
“They’ve also expressed their desire to open the border,” he added.
Santos announced the establishment of a commission that will produce a “roadmap” for the reopening and be led by Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, who also visited Cucuta.
“The foreign minister will be the coordinator, the director of that task force so we can draft a roadmap ahead of an eventual reopening of the border,” Santos said, adding that the idea was to include Venezuela in that process.
Santos and Holguin visited Cucuta a day after roughly 500 Venezuelan women crossed the closed border to buy food amid severe shortages at home.
The women arrived in Cucuta from the Venezuelan city of Ureña after walking over the Francisco de Paula Santander international bridge amid cheers and chants of “Yes, we can!” and with authorities unable to stop them.
Maduro ordered the closure of the porous 2,219-kilometer (1,378-mile) Colombian-Venezuelan border last Aug. 19, saying the action was part of his government’s efforts against smugglers and paramilitary gangs operating from the neighboring country.
Hundreds of Colombians living on the Venezuelan side of the frontier were subsequently deported, and thousands more returned to their homeland of their own accord to avoid the same fate.