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Colombia blocking passage to Venezuelans until border opened permanently

By Andrew V. Pestano
Colombia blocking passage to Venezuelans until border opened permanently
Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have crossed into Colombia this month to buy basic goods after the Colombian government allowed temporary passage. The border, which was completely closed late last year by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, will no longer be opened until it is permanently opened. Photo courtesy of Colombian National Police

BOGOTA, July 20 (UPI) -- Colombia will no longer temporarily open the border to allow Venezuelans to buy basic goods until the border, closed by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, is reopened permanently.

The Colombian and Venezuelan border was completely closed by Maduro late last year after three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian were injured in an attack by suspected smugglers in Venezuela's San Antonio del Tachira border town in the state of Táchira.

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Earlier this month, tens of thousands of Venezuelans began pouring into Colombia from a crossing near San Antonio del Tachira to buy basic goods when Colombia allowed temporary passage to its border town of Cucuta. More than 123,000 Venezuelans crossed into Colombia this past weekend.

Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin said the decision to block further temporary border crossings was made to allow for the "definitive" opening of the entire border.

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Colombia and Venezuela's 1,400-mile border is porous and highly unregulated. It's often used by smugglers to purchase heavily subsidized goods in Venezuela to resell in Colombia for a profit. Food scarcity in Venezuela has led basic goods such as flour, sugar and rice to be missing from shelves.

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Angela Holguin said work needs to be done to make the border safe and to prevent criminality in the area. Colombian and Venezuelan officials are working to reopen the border as Angela Holguin is scheduled to meet with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez in the coming weeks.

José Vielma Mora, governor of Venezuela's Táchira state, met with Angela Holguin on Monday. In the meeting, both agreed that the border would not be reopened this coming weekend.

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The temporary opening of the border would "considerably delay the negotiations for permanent and legal opening between the two countries," Vielma Mora told reporters on Monday, El Universal reports.

The Colombian and Venezuelan defense ministers met in Caracas on June 30 to discuss border security.

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