Colombia’s border city Cucuta has plunged into a crisis after a failed attempt to force American aid into Venezuela last month spurred the closing of the border.
The city became world news last month when billionaire Richard Branson organized a solidarity concert for Venezuela and the country’s opposition leader tried to cross the border with American aid.
After that failed and most foreign reporters left the city, Cucuta was left with the consequences; while refugees from Venezuela continue to flood the city, trade with Venezuelan border communities dropped 60%, according to the local chamber of commerce.
Governor William Villamizar has declared a social and economic emergency to release emergency funds to deal with the crisis, but has been waiting for a response from the National Government.
Mayor Cesar Rojas asked President Ivan Duque for a $64 million (COP200 billion) loan to confront the crisis early this month, but didn’t receive a response until Sunday when the president asked Vice-President Marta Lucia Ramirez to figure out a solution.
According to local newspaper La Opinion, the VP met with local political and business leaders immediately, but is not expected to formulate a comprehensive response for “two or three weeks.”
But this is too long for Chamber of Commerce president Carlos Luna.
“The urgency of an intervention of the Duque administration at the border can’t wait. [State bank] Bancoldex resources are needed to generate employment and increase productivity, Luna told radio station Caracol on Monday.
So far, the city can only count on minor responses from Bogota to curb the crisis.
Following the meeting with Ramirez, public education institute SENA vowed an extra $320 thousand (COP1 billion) that would create 200 government-sponsored jobs in the city where unemployment was 16.3% before the crisis already.
Another 3,500 unemployed young people will receive government subsidies and some 500 unemployed persons could receive jobs in the local flower industry.
But the credit line requested by the mayor will not be opened and the city is going have to continue suffering the consequences of the president’s failed attempts to topple his counterpart in Venezuela.