Many in Colombia’s border region with Venezuela expect the neighbors to close the border after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro promised “a little surprise.”
The region has already been under major pressure due to more than 450,000 Venezuelan who have crossed the border so far this year.
Maduro has blamed contraband, a common criminal activity in the lawless region, of weakening the security and economic situation in his country.
I have even thought about closing all communication, and air and naval trade lines with Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire. I’ve given this serious thought because the mafia is taking everything. For Cucuta and Maicao, we have a new surprise for them. I can’t say any more.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
According to newspaper El Tiempo, local politicians said Maduro’s contraband claims were an attempts to divert attention away from the crisis in the neighboring country.
One council member said a border closure could alleviate the city’s refugee crisis.
The surprise Maduro could come up with is closing the border. I think that surprise would be the best gift for the region this time of year.
Cucuta council member Oliverio Castellanos via El Tiempo
A Venezuelan citizen told El Tiempo he feared the consequences of a border closure.
Thousands cross the border each day to seek supplies or medical care that have gone scarce on the Venezuelan side of the border.
The border is now only open for pedestrians between 6AM and 8AM. The Venezuela government has restricted opening hours also on contraband claims.
While Venezuela slowly slipped into crisis after a 2014 drop in oil prices, drug trafficking from Colombia has increased.
The porous 1,300-mil border has become a headache for authorities on both sides.
Diplomatic tensions have also been high amid Venezuelan accusations that Bogota elites are supporting illegal armed groups in the neighboring country.