1000s of Venezuelans stream to Colombia for food

2016-07-11 21:06
A Venezuelan man shows money as he crosses the border from San Antonio del Tachira to Colombia.  (Schneyder Mendoza, AFP)

A Venezuelan man shows money as he crosses the border from San Antonio del Tachira to Colombia. (Schneyder Mendoza, AFP)

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Bogota - Tens of thousands of Venezuelans streamed across bridges into Colombia over the weekend after Venezuela briefly lifted a year-old border closure to allow people to buy food and medicine.

Colombian officials said 35 000 Venezuelans made the trip on Sunday during the 12-hour border opening. Many started waiting before dawn, and came back weighed down with flour, cooking oil, nappies and other essentials.

Hundreds of women last week pushed through the checkpoint and into the Colombian city on the other side, saying they were desperate to buy basic goods. Venezuela has been grappling with increasingly severe shortages this year, and what pantry staples there are have become staggeringly expensive.

President Nicolas Maduro ordered the border with Colombia closed last August to crack down on smuggling and crime. He said the women who rushed over bridges into Colombia last week were participating in a "media show", and denied that the country is suffering a humanitarian crisis.

The Venezuelan government still gives out special day passes that allow students, some workers, and sick people with the right documents to cross.

Before the border was shut, more than 100 000 people daily used the two main crossings in this region, according to the Venezuelan government. Now, that number has shrunk to just 3 000 a day, non-profit groups working in the region say.

Read more on:    colombia  |  venezuela
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