Caracas, February 29, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government partially lifted its six-month closure of the Colombian border on Saturday, allowing the crossing of heavy-load vehicles during restricted daytime hours.
The Francisco de Paula Santander international bridge will now be open to tractor-trailers between the hours of 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Tachira State Governor Jose Gregorio Vielma Mora praised the measure as a boon to the border region’s economy.
“It is a big step, the beginning of the border opening by Venezuela. This initiative has been from the Bolivarian government, with the aim of advancing the economy,” the PSUV governor stated on Friday.
Colombia, for its part, responded to the move Monday by tightening its border controls, requiring all foreigners to present a passport, a letter of invitation or hotel reservation, and a work visa if applicable prior to entering the country.
The new measures came under fire, however, by Vielma Mora, who said they would “impede free movement for health, work, transport, and education”.
According to the state governor, the new regulations “put an end to the Treaty of Tronchalá…which establishes that Venezuelans can enter Colombia with only a government identification card and Colombians [can enter] our country in the same fashion”.
Colombia has yet to reply to the governor’s criticisms.
The 1,400 mile shared border was closed in progressive stages by the Venezuelan government since mid-August as part of a coordinated effort to combat smuggling and paramilitary activity.
It was estimated last year that approximately 35% of Venezuela’s subsidized food items are smuggled over the border to Colombia, where they are exchanged for dollars used to finance further contraband activity.