Borders checkpoints with Venezuela and Ecuador clogged Sunday as tens of thousands of workers were trying to flee Colombia after the announcement of a free trade agreement with the U.S..
According to anonymous sources within local transport sources, traffic in the border cities of Cucuta and Ipiales came to a complete standstill as hordes of cars and carts were moving towards the country’s main exit routes. The sources said local authorities were expecting even worse traffic jams on Monday as “people from big cities like Bogota, Medellin and Cali will not be able to reach the border until the morning.”
Venezuelan and Ecuadorean border authorities have admitted a dramatic increase in people trying to get into their respective country, but said it was “speculative” to assume the massive exodus had to do with the announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama and his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos that the FTA comes into force on May 15.
According to Venezuelan news network Telesur, at least one out of three of the border-crossing Colombians were workers belonging to a union who fear they have become sitting ducks for anti-union violence.
“We thought the labor action plan [officially aimed to reduce anti-union violence and labor rights violations] was supposed to increase our protection so we decided to sit out the death threats until measures were taken, but now that we suddenly are certified as safe we have to leave. We prefer to be jobless in Venezuela than dead in Colombia,” one emigrant, who wouldn’t reveal his name, told the network.
Colombia’s two national television networks failed to report on the situation at the country’s borders and called Obama and Santos’ announcement “historic.” Both Caracol and RCN reported the business empires owning the channels expected a profit increase of at least 15%.
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