Colombia troop deployment at Venezuela border raises questions

Colombia has sent 14,000 soldiers to its border with Venezuela, which is reopening this week after a three-year closure, in a move rights groups and political analysts say could fuel tensions between the countries.

The Venezuelan government began the process of reopening the border on Tuesday by removing containers placed at the Simon Bolivar International Bridge in 2019.

At the time, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had ordered the closure when a United States-backed humanitarian convoy planned to cross the bridge to deliver aid amid huge shortages of basic food and medical supplies in the country.

However, the 2,200km (1,367-mile) border had already been closed to vehicles since 2015 due to a separate political dispute between the Andean nations, which have been at odds over a surge in Venezuelan migrants crossing into Colombia and the presence of armed groups along the border, among other issues.

The decision to reopen the border comes after years of pressure and negotiations by local residents in those areas, as well as civil society groups and workers’ unions, explained Ronald Rodriguez, head of the Observatory on Venezuela at Bogota’s Rosario University.4

“They must be very careful because these types of actions could damage the process,” he said, adding that the diplomatic relationship between the two countries is at its worst.

“We are used to a diplomatic relationship of shouting insults, threats and accusations back and forth, and in the end, the people who live in the border areas who are the most affected by all of this are tired,” Rodriguez said.

Informal crossings

Colombia has been struggling to cope with the influx of Venezuelan refugees and migrants fleeing poverty, violence, and a lack of basic necessities including medicine. More than 5.6 million Venezuelans have left the country in recent years, according to the United Nations, in “one of the largest external displacement crises in the world”.

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