Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro has ordered to remain the border with Colombia closed until January 2 as the country is struggling to withdraw its highest-value banknote amid skyrocketing inflation.
Maduro initially ordered a 72-hour border closing on Monday that would allow Venezuelan citizens to exchange their 100Bs banknotes. This was then extended another 72 hours on Thursday.
According to Maduro, the sudden withdrawal of the country’s highest banknotes has smashed the black market and successfully dealt a blow to “Colombian mafias.”
Nevertheless, Maduro extended the possibility to change the banknote until January and vowed to keep the border closed to prevent foreign owners of Venezuelan money to change their bills for others.
The ongoing accusations of Colombian involvement in Venezuela’s economic, political and social crisis is increasingly causing tensions with Colombia’s government, which last week already called to “respect” businesses from the border region, specifically border city Cucuta.
The department of Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin stepped up its defense of Colombian border traders on Sunday.
The business people in the city of Cucuta have been the ones who most have helped the thousands of Venezuelans who have come to the country looking for food and medical supplies.
Colombia’s Foreign Ministy
Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo supported his colleague and also defended the border city, stating on Twitter that “Cucuta is not a city of mafiosos … With insults and lies you don’t resolve a crisis.”
The economic crisis in Venezuela, caused primarily by a steep drop in oil prices and rampant corruption, caused scuffles between Venezuelan citizens and police at the Cucuta border, according to the BBC.
The British news outlet said there had been rioted in Tachira, the state bordering Colombia and Cucuta, and that people were raiding warehouses in search of food.
Maduro said on national television that some 300 alleged looters have been arrested.