Protesters angry at Venezuela’s arrest of several small-time Colombian smugglers decided to temporarily lift a blockade they had placed at the countries’ shared border, after the Colombian consul in San Antonio del Tachira, Venezuela visited the detainees.
The protesters, whose numbers swelled to around 100 over the almost 24 hours the blockade was in effect, made the decision to lift their blockade after learning from Venezuelan authorities that the detainees would be charged with smuggling.
Colombia’s consul in San Antonio del Tachira, Carlos Alberto Barros, visited the detainees and reported that they had been well treated, although their merchandise had been confiscated. Barros said the detainees will appear before a Venezuelan judge within 48 hours.
Reports on the exact number of detainees vary between six and eight.
Protesters blockaded the Francisco de Paula Santander International bridge, which links Cucuta, Colombia with border Ureña, Venezuela, after they learned the small-time smugglers had been arrested.
The blockade paralyzed the border crossing, through which some 3,000 vehicles pass daily, with students and workers unable to cross the border to attend school and work.
Buying goods in Venezuela and smuggling them into Colombia to sell at a profit is a common practice along the Colombia-Venezuela border. Authorities generally turn a blind eye to the practice.
Tension between Colombia and Venezuela are running high, due to a diplomatic dispute over the socialist nation’s detention of eight Colombians, who are accused of espionage.
Colombia has appealed to the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) for help, due to concerns that Venezuela is violatig the human rights of the detainees.
Relations between the neighboring nations have been terse for some time. Venezuela is critical of the impact of Colombia’s internal conflict within its own borders. Colombia accuses Venezuela of providing FARC guerrillas with a safe haven.