Venezuela, Colombia Reopen Border Crossings Without Incident

Venezuela, Colombia reopen border crossings without incident

SAN ANTONIO DEL TACHIRA, Venezuela, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 13th August, 2016) : Venezuela and Colombia on Saturday opened several "provisional" border crossing points for pedestrians for the first time in nearly a year as part of a progressive reopening agreed this week, AFP journalists confirmed. As of 0600 local time (1000 GMT), the authorities had opened a total of five crossing points in the Venezuelan towns of Tachira, Apure, Zulia and Amazonas. During three temporary border openings last month, some 150,000 Venezuelans -- suffering from their country's severe economic crisis -- poured into Colombia to purchase food, medicine and other basics. Early Saturday, the flow of pedestrians was relatively light across the Simon Bolivar Bridge from Tachira to the Colombian city of Cucuta, but longer lines began to develop as the day wore on.

Both governments agreed to facilitate "the fastest possible movement of people, rapidly but in a controlled fashion," Venezuelan regional military chief Jose Morantes Torres said. The agreement Thursday by presidents Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela and Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia called for the border to be opened 15 hours a day. Maduro had ordered the border closing in August 2015 following an armed attack on a Venezuelan military patrol that left three soldiers wounded.

It was blamed on Colombian paramilitaries. The 2,200-kilometer (1,350-mile) border has long been plagued by drug and contraband smuggling, another reason Maduro had cited for last year's closing. Thursday's agreement also called for an exchange of customs information to help stem fuel smuggling.