A house representative for Colombians abroad has strongly criticized Venezuela mistreating Colombian border community, local newspaper El Pais reported Tuesday.
According to U Party House Representative Jaime Buenahora, elected to represent the Colombian diaspora, Venezuela has been violating Colombians’ rights in rigid and controversial efforts to curb contraband.
“It is absurd to retain a person for buying rice, coffee, sugar, etc.. The inhumane treatment our countrymen have received on the border must end. Instead of chasing poor people, authorities should tackle the big smuggling,” Buenahora said.
The persons he is referring to is two Colombians who bought goods in a Venezuelan supermarket for $15 in September. They have since been held in Venezuela on accusations of smuggling and face jail sentence between 10 to 14 years.
For long, inhabitants at the Colombian border cities have smuggled Venezuelan gasoline, which is significantly cheaper than Colombian fuel.
As Venezuela’s economy worsened over the past years and some products that are widely available in Colombia have become scarce in Venezuela resulting in border communities also began selling Colombian products across the border.
Because of drought in the area and ongoing government neglect, the locals say, this contraband business has become the only way to make their private economy go round.
In an attempt to stop the contraband the Venezuelan government has closed border crossings at night, leading to discontent and violent protests ending in burned vehicles.
Buenahora claimed that he had called Colombia’s Foreign Minister along with Venezuelan authorities to stop what he called the “abuse” on Colombians.