The presidents of Venezuela and Colombia have announced that they are going to gradually reopen the border between their two countries beginning this weekend.
The frontier was closed by Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro nearly a year ago. At the time he said the measure was necessary in order to control the smuggling of subsidized food out of Venezuela. Now, with subsidized goods in very short supply in the crisis-ridden country, new tensions have arisen precisely because the border is closed.
A temporary relaxation of one crossing point during one weekend last month brought frantic scenes as over 100,000 Venezuelans flooded into the Colombian city of Cúcuta desperate to buy the basic goods they can no longer find at home. The talks on how to restore transit in a more ordered way began days later.
Maduro and his Colombian counterpart, President Juan Manuel Santos, made the announcement of the imminent reopening on Thursday evening after talks held in the Venezuelan city of Puerto Ordaz.
"We are going to open it in a gradual way," Santos said, during the accompanying press conference. "It will be a provisional reopening for the period that we are learning what works."
The presidents said that the first stage will consist of allowing pedestrians with appropriate documentation to cross the 1,378-mile border at five frontier points during the day. It will remain completely closed at night.
"Let's bet on the success of this new opening of the frontier in peace," a smiling President Maduro said. "We are on the threshold of being able to give an example of good bilateral relations."
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