Colombian officials say they want to permanently re-open their Venezuelan border after hundreds of thousands of people flocked to cities like Cucuta over the past two weekends to purchase basic food staples and amenities during temporary government-sanctioned border openings.
The border openings are a result of the worsening economic crisis in Venezuela, as inflation rates continue to rise, store shelves remain depleted, and families struggle to find food. Low price controls on basic items like corn, eggs, and flour within the country are undercutting producers and hampering supplies, while any foodstuffs that can still be found in regular supermarkets are priced well out of range of the country’s poor.
One pound of chicken is estimated to cost about a week’s worth of earnings on minimum wage. Meanwhile, few can afford to maintain repairs on their homes, which average one to four percent of the building’s value every year. Inflation rates are expected to increase by another 481% this year.
The temporary openings of the border with Colombia allowed many people to acquire reasonably-priced food and supplies. The 2,219-kilometer border was first closed off by President Maduro in August 2015 to prevent smuggling activity, where the price-controlled products of Venezuelan origin could sell for much higher prices in Colombia.
Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, however, said the massive migration of obviously desperate people between the two countries during the temporary openings indicates a need for reconsideration.
“We have taken the decision that there will not be another session like the ones over the past two weekends,” Holguin said. “We will work for the opening, the next opening, to be definitive.”
Indeed, patterns of smuggling have reversed, as people return from Colombia stocked with food items and necessities that they re-sell in Venezuela.
Holguin added that more should be done to make the borders safe, secure, and free from criminal activity.