A three-week-old border closure imposed by Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro has not abated smuggling into Colombia, according to business leaders and Colombian officials.
On August 19, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered a temporary closure of the border between the Venezuelan state of Tachira and the Colombian department of Norte de Santander, after three military personal were injured in a firefight with smugglers.
That closure was initially set for 72 hours. The Venezuela government has since extended the closures indefinitely and expanded them to other areas of the Colombian-Venezuelan border, while also deporting over 1,000 Colombians living in Venezuela.
Maduro has explained the measures as a method to combat illegal contraband smuggling between the two neighbor countries. According to business groups and authorities, however, the effort has not born fruit.
While the formal border crossings have been closed between the two nations, hundreds of clandestine roads, often no more than dirt paths, remain open. These “trochas” allow smugglers to bring goods bought cheaply in Venezuela to Colombia where they are sold at a much higher price.
According to Jose Lafaurie, the president of the Colombian Livestock Federation, prior to the border closure Venezuelan cattle comprised 80% of the total supply of meat in the Colombian border city of Cucuta. That supply chain has gone unhindered, despite the rhetoric and efforts of the Venezuelan government, according to the trade union leader’s statements report in Colombian news outlet Pulzo.
“It is incomprehensible that after three weeks of a closed border with Venezuela… smuggling continues to flow into Colombia freely,” Lafaurie said in a letter to the Governor of Norte de Santander Edgar Diaz and the Mayor of Cucuta, Diomaris Ramirez.
Lafaurie points to the discrepancy between the cattle supplied by members of the trade union and the actual consumption of meat in Cucuta. Butchers there slaughter no more than 20 cattle per day, however, according to Lafaurie, more than 500 cattle are still consumed per day.
Livestock is not the only thing still being smuggled across the border. On Monday, the engineer Battalion of the Colombian Army seized 3,850 gallons of fuel smuggled across the border in La Primavera, Vichada, where gas is smuggled on boats along the Orinoco River.
Gustavo Moreno, director of the Fiscal Police ordered the destruction and closure of 50 clandestine roadways in an effort to combat the extant smuggling along the 1,378 mile border.
Since August 19, Venezuela has deported 1,482 Colombians and over 20,000 more returned to their home country out of fear, according to the United Nations.