Colombia Venezuela Political Crisis

Venezuelans showing their IDs line up to cross the Simon Bolivar international bridge into Cucuta, Colombia, Saturday, June 8, 2019. Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro ordered the partial re-opening of the border that has been closed since February when he stationed containers on the bridge to block an opposition plan to deliver humanitarian aid into the country. (AP Photo/Ferley Ospina)

CÚCUTA, Colombia — Thousands of people crossed into Colombia on Saturday to buy food and medicine after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro reopened a border between the countries that had been shut down for the past

four months.

Long lines of Venezuelans stood at two international bridges near the city of Cúcuta waiting to have their documents checked by Colombian officials, with some carrying children on their shoulders. Venezuelan border guards dressed in green uniforms helped control the crowd.

The South American nation’s socialist government ordered the borders with Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Brazil and Colombia closed in February as the opposition tried to deliver food and medical supplies into

the country.

Most of the aid was provided by the United States, a key ally of opposition leader Juan Guaidó who declared himself to be Venezuela’s rightful president in January. But Maduro dismissed the aid as an infringement on Venezuela’s sovereignty and prohibited it

from entering.

In May, the government reopened borders with Aruba and Brazil, but the Simon Bolivar International Bridge and the Francisco de Paula Santander International Bridge with Colombia have remained closed up

until now.

With the reopening, a flood of people seized on the opportunity to enter into the neighboring country and secure items that are all but unattainable

in Venezuela.

The once-wealthy oil nation is now facing severe shortages of basic goods and hyperinflation that is expected to surpass 10 million percent this year, according to a recent IMF estimate. The chaos has been further aggravated by U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan oil exports and has forced an estimated 5,000 people to leave the country each day, according to the United Nation’s High Commissioner

for Refugees.

The U.N. refugee agency said Friday that 4 million Venezuelans, or almost 15% of the population, have left the country.

On Saturday, the UNHCR’s special envoy Angelina Jolie was visiting another part of the Colombia-Venezuela border to learn more about the conditions faced by migrants and refugees and raise awareness about their needs. The Hollywood actress met with aid workers and Venezuelans and toured a tent village built by UNHCR for vulnerable migrants.

Following her visit, Jolie gave a brief statement in which she praised Colombia for receiving more than 1.3 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and urged the leaders of developed countries to do more to help displaced people around the world.

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