Caracas, September 16, 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) – In the lead-up to talks with his Colombian counterpart, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro proposed a series of measures aimed at resolving the tense border conflict, including the sale of Venezuelan gasoline in the Colombian border city of Cucuta.
Tensions between the two neighbors have been on the rise since mid-August when Maduro ordered a 60-day closure of sections of the joint border in response to an alleged paramilitary attack on three Venezuelan soldiers in the frontier zone.
As Maduro prepares to sit down with Colombia’s Santos in the coming days, the socialist leader announced Friday the creation of Mission New Border of Peace, which will be charged with expanding all of Venezuela’s social missions established over the previous sixteen years to the border zone.
“This mission is aimed at bringing all of the missions, Homes of the Motherland, Barrio Adentro, Robinson, health and educational missions to teach people there to read and write, [give them their] elementary, secondary, and university education.”
The Venezuelan Head of State also announced a proposal to sell Venezuelan gasoline in the Colombian border city of Cucuta at preferential rates, favoring “cab drivers, workers, professionals, poor people.”
“We are ready to do it, President Santos, as soon as we sit down to talk, because this is how it works, proposal, counter-proposal, conversation, dialogue, and results,” he stated.
Colombian frontier cities such as Cucuta are an estimated 80% dependent on contraband Venezuelan gasoline, which is smuggled across the border at a rate of approximately 100,000 liters daily.
New Border Closures
President Maduro’s initiatives were followed on Tuesday with the announcement of new border closures in ten municipalities along the Colombian border, including seven in the northwestern state of Zulia and three in southwestern Apure state.
These border municipalities, comprising Jesus Enrique Lossada, Rosario de Perija, Machique de Perija, Cañada de Urdaneta, Jesus Maria Semprun, Paez, Catatumbo, Colon, Romulo Gallegos and Pedro Camejo, will be the first to see the roll-out of Mission New Border of Peace, aimed at creating social and economic alternatives to paramilitarism and contraband.
Cross-border smuggling has played a key role in what the President Maduro has termed an economic war against Venezuela, with an estimated 35% of subsidized food items making their way to Colombia.