Santa Elena, October 22nd, 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Two months after the Venezuelan government closed off sections of its western border with Colombia, the measure has been extended for another 60 days, as confirmed by the Official Gazette on Monday.
The announcement follows an acknowledgement by the Colombian government of a drop in crime and smuggling along the border since Venezuela sent three thousand troops to the region in August, after two soldiers were attacked by alleged paramilitaries.
Shortly after the incident, major crossings along the 1,400-mile border were closed in succession and a state of exception was called, a decision initially criticized as rash by Colombia.
Following face-to-face presidential talks in Quito last month that successfully resolved the escalating diplomatic crisis, Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas now says “a new era of cooperation” has been reached with Venezuela.
Homicide has decreased by 10 percent, while 400 cattle and 150,000 gallons of Venezuelan petrol have been seized by Colombian authorities since August, the Minister added.
The review was presented to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos during a cabinet meeting last week.
Many Venezuelans praised the measure as highly necessary, citing the official statistic that over 35 percent of government subsidized goods and over 45,000 gallons of cheap gasoline were smuggled over the border daily.
Still, critics along the border complain that long lines outside state supermarkets still persist, due to the phenomenon of bachaqueo, or reselling. Bachaqueros control networks of people who wait in line to buy goods at regulated prices, then resell them on the street for outrageous profit, prompting scarcity and inflation.
The initial raid led by Venezuelan authorities in the state of Tachira took place on August 19th, in response to a reported paramilitary presence in the region. In the days that followed, numerous drug smuggling cartels were dismantled, as well as other criminal networks such as human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors.
1500 undocumented Colombians were deported during the raid, though President Maduro later permitted deportees to return and offered government assistance to those who wanted to obtain legal status.