The Wall Street Journal says there were 88,000, AP says there were 100,000, UPI says 120,000. The fact is that, for the second weekend in a row,
Venezuelans Flood Into Colombian City to Buy Food and Medicine. Unable to buy what they want at home, Venezuelans take advantage of brief border opening
Once Latin America’s most affluent country, Venezuela now has an imploding economy. Multinationals are leaving the country, inflation is the highest in the world, and medicine and basic foods are difficult to acquire. That has prompted frequent protests and food riots, which the National Guard has put down.
“The government is opening the escape valve to ease the mounting adrenaline and social pressure,” said Carlos Chacon, a city councilman in small San Antonio on the Venezuelan side.
Mr. Maduro partly blamed Colombians for the country’s problems. Starting in August 2015, he progressively shut down border crossings, saying that what he described as uneducated and poverty-stricken Colombians were flooding into Venezuela.
His shutdown of border checkpoints came as more than 20,000 Colombians fled Venezuela, some of them after seeing bulldozers level their homes. Venezuela’s government said the border closings would help stamp out the smuggling of food and other basics from Venezuela to Colombia.
Colombian officials dressed in white shirts individually welcomed those arriving while police handed out cake and blasted out festive vallenato tunes, the traditional music beloved on both sides of the border. Roadside kiosks set up by entrepreneurs took payment in Venezuela’s currency for goods at a steep discount from what they cost on the black market back home.
Noticias Caracol reported (video in Spanish) on the day. Here are the highlights:
Smugglers allegedly burned down a bus to protest border measures against smuggling.
Stores sold out on goods, especially sugar and flour, with Venezuelans spending over US$1.5 million on Sunday alone.
The reporter estimated 120,000+ people crossed.
Venezuelans effusively thanked Colombians, including the border guards.
Pharmacies sold out.
Most of the people interviewed stated that they bought very basic items, such as milk, soap, toilet paper, and other staples.
The Venezuelan government denies any shortages and insist the Venezuelans are heading across the border “for fun.”