Venezuela Relaxes Border Closures, Eases Tensions with Columbia

It has been a particularly rough time for Venezuelans in recent years. Facing an economic crisis stemming from astronomical inflation rates, limited access to basic goods, and dwindling agricultural and industrial markets, most citizens could not imagine worse conditions.

But then it happened.

August 9, 2015 Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro made the extreme decision to shutdown border access to neighboring Columbia, a border that reaches down most of the country’s western border.

According to an article published by Time in September 2015, Maduro claimed his decision was a desperate attempt to stop Columbian paramilitaries, drug traffickers, and smugglers from invading Venezuela and causing economic disaster. Declaring a state of emergency, Maduro then ordered the deportation of Columbians, creating a foreign relations nightmare.

Generally speaking, the international community viewed Maduro’s decision as a reckless technique intended to steer attention away from his ruinous socialist economic program. It short, Columbia became his scapegoat.

In the year that followed, the quality of life in Venezuela continued to plummet since the country largely depended on Columbia supply of raw materials and food staples to supplement its scarce resources. However, circumstances are now slowly improving.

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President Maduro met with Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos in early August, reaching an agreement to slowly start reopening border checkpoints. For now, only five checkpoints are accessible, and are only available to pedestrian crossings. However, vehicles will soon be permitted to cross and more checkpoints are scheduled to reopen throughout the coming year.

Both leaders expressed interest in providing greater security and smuggling prevention tactics as the border becomes more exposed. Along with recouping economic and commercial losses, Venezuela is also expected to benefit from better international relations, which may prove crucial as it continues struggling for more stable conditions.