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Venezuela reopens Colombia, Brazil border crossings

Update: December, 21/2016 - 11:00
People cross the Simon Bolivar international bridge from San Antonio del Tachira, Venezuela to Norte de Santander province, Colombia, on Tuesday. — AFP/VNA Photo
Viet Nam News

CARACAS  Thousands of Venezuelans crossed into Colombia on Tuesday to buy food and medicine after their government partially reopened the border following a messy crackdown on what it called currency hoarders.

The border with Brazil was also partially reopened, officials in Brasilia said.

"Thank God the border is open again," said one 29-year-old, Christian Sanchez.

"A lot of people have come to shop on the other side, because we can’t find food, diapers for our babies, medicine," he said.

Sanchez was preparing to enter a pedestrian crossing over the Simon Bolivar Bridge linking the cities of San Antonio in Venezuela and Cucuta, Colombia.

But while foot traffic was permitted, trucks carrying needed goods remained blocked.

Venezuela also reopened its main border crossing with Brazil after talks between officials at the Brazilian embassy and Venezuela’s foreign ministry, officials in Brasilia said in a statement.

The crossing is open for pedestrians, but only within limited hours for vehicles.

Local press reported that some 200 Brazilians, mostly local tourists, were prevented from returning home when Venezuela closed the border.

President Nicolas Maduro had ordered the borders with Colombia and Brazil be closed on December 12 as part of a currency reform that involved removing the 100-bolivar note from circulation.

Maduro alleged "mafias" abroad were hoarding the banknotes to try to suffocate the Venezuelan economy.

But looting and clashes broke out over the weekend as many people were left without cash. At least three people were reported killed, and around 300 people arrested.

Bolivar was the state hit hardest by the unrest. A curfew has been in force there since Saturday, and more than 3,000 troops are patrolling the streets.

Maduro eventually reversed course and said the currency will remain legal tender until January 2 while new, higher denomination bills are printed and circulated.

Late Monday, he and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos spoke by telephone and agreed to reopen the border "progressively," according to Venezuelan information minister Ernesto Villegas.

While visiting the border town of Cucuta on Tuesday, Santos said in a televised speech that better cooperation "on both sides" was needed to crack down on contraband. — AFP


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