Colombians are paying smugglers to help them cross the border illegally via horse trails into Venezuela. Merchandise is also being smuggled between the two countries via the same trails.
Locals are seeking out alternative ways to cross between Colombia and Venezuela border because of continued problems along the border. In the latest incident, Venezuelan soldiers blew up two pedestrian bridges in Colombia’s Norte de Santander frontier department.
Smugglers are charging 25 thousand to 70 thousand (US$12 to $35) to guide undocumented Colombians into Venezuela, El Heraldo reported Tuesday. These Colombians are squished into trucks so that they are hidden from view from the border patrol. If they are discovered, they must bribe officials to let them pass.
Merchandise is also smuggled along the same clandestine paths, usually between midnight and six a.m. when the border patrol is less vigilant, according to El Heraldo. Among the smuggled goods is gasoline, which has risen in price on the black market because of the lengths smugglers must go to in order to get it across the border.
Colombia and Venezuela have had strained diplomatic relations for months as Venezuela fiercely objects to a Colombian agreement with the U.S. that allows the Americans to use military bases and civilian airports for counternarcotics and counterterrorism missions.
The border region has long been a reason for tensions between the countries as Venezuela accuses Colombia of allowing right wing paramilitary fighters to enter Venezuelan territory, while Colombia says the border is often crossed by left-wing guerrillas seeking refuge in the neighbor country.
Venezuela will appear before the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday to respond to claims by Colombia that it is “threatening war”.