Businesses in northern Colombia have closed after protesters blocked an area along the Colombia-Venezuela border over fuel disputes, local media reported on Tuesday.
The business sector of the border-city Maicao, located in the northern department of La Guajira, closed Tuesday morning as local business owners reacted to a blockaded border and a lack of accessible fuel.
All trade between Colombia and Venezuela through this northeastern border has been closed off since last Friday, causing all transportation of goods to cease, diminishing traffic from crucial Venezuelan consumers, and exacerbating a severe shortage of affordable Venezuelan fuel.
Colombian shop owners, distributors and suppliers decided to close their shops because they refused to be engulfed in the paralysis a day longer, explained citizens of Maicao to the local media.
This “financial crisis,” as local media have labeled the situation, began Friday when a coalition of Venezuelan gas providers made up of the indigenous Wayuu people, blockaded the borders in protest of the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, failing to deliver oil and gas to the region after meetings with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
The fuel deliveries stopped once Santos and PDVSA agreed to cease the 2011 bi-national fuel exports program that former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin agreed upon. This program provided the only source of income for almost 3,000 indigenous families in Venezuela, and was part of a 13-point economic agreement made by the two countries at the time.
Cheap gasoline, often smuggled from Venezuela into Colombia, is a staple for the vitality of both border cities and such gas coalitions, though the practice is at the expense of both country’s larger economies.
“If the governments of Colombia and Venezuela do not solve this fuel problem, all business will permanently stop because [Maicao’s] commercial dynamic is given to [Venezuela] all the time, and if there are no buyers, then we cannot do anything with open establishments” insisted Mara Ortega, president of the Federation of Liquor and Cigarette Importers for La Guajira Special Customs Regime.
Neither President Santos nor the Venezuelan Minister of Petroleum and Mining, Rafael Ramirez have publicly offered a solution to halt in trade or the cease in oil and gas delivery at this time.
Maicao, La Guajira