35,000 Venezuelans cross border to buy goods, medicine in Colombia

The border between economically crippled Venezuela and Colombia was opened Sunday for the first time in 11 months, and more than 35,000 Venezuelans crossed into the neighbouring country to buy groceries and medicine.

The Venezuelans shopped for goods that are not available in their own country in the city of Cucuta, the newspaper El Tiempo reported.

"We didn't think that more than 10,000 people would come over the border bridge," said William Villamizar, governor of the Colombian department Norte de Santander of which Cucuta in the capital. The rush of people shows that the border must be opened immediately, said Villamizar.

The director of the Colombian border authority, Victor Bautista, estimated that 35,000 Venezuelans arrived in Cucuta.

About 500 woman forced their way across the country's north-eastern border to Colombia on Tuesday to buy food amid widespread shortages at home, news reports said.

Jose Gregorio Velma Mora, governor of the Venezuelan border state of Tachira, said the government allowed the border to be opened for 12 hours on Sunday to prevent further illegal breaches, which the opposition wanted to organize.

The government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro closed the border crossing to Colombia in August last year to stop smuggling and penetrations by Colombian paramilitaries.

Venezuela is mired in a deepening economic crisis, as skyrocketing interest rates and a lack of hard currency have emptied market shelves and left hospitals short of medicines.

Protesters demanding food have clashed with authorities in several cities in recent weeks in protests and looting that have turned deadly.

Last update: Mon, 11/07/2016 - 04:51

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