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Venezuelans rush into Colombia seeking food and medicine

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Venezuelans rush into Colombia seeking food and medicine

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Colombia was invaded on Sunday – by Venezuelans desperate to buy much-needed food and medicine and basic goods like toilet paper and soap.

An estimated 35,000 took advantage of a 12-hour temporary border opening.

A severe economic crisis following a decline in oil revenues has caused critical shortages in Venezuela.

One of those who crossed into Colombia, Ada Marquez, said it was an emotional day: “I was crying as I crossed the bridge when I saw the avalanche of people. It’s unbelievable to me that all of Venezuela wants to come here, to this neighbouring country, to look for the things we can’t get over there. Every day, there are fewer things.”

The shelves emptied swiftly on the Colombian side of the border where shops accepted the depreciating Venezuelan currency, the bolivar.

Cross-border shopper Bernarda Oliveros explained: “It’s a relief to be able to come here to find our products, our medicines, that we really can’t get over there.”

Another Venezuelan Carmen Velazco added: “We don’t have food. We don’t have cooking oil. We don’t have flour. So that’s why we have to come here.”

Maduro criticised

Critics blame Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s economic policies for the shortages, which got worse as oil prices fell.

He ordered the border closure 11 months ago to crack down on smuggling and following an attack on a customs post by former Colombian anti-government fighters.

There was some criticism of Maduro among those crossing the border on Sunday.

One man said: “The shortages are continually worse. I would like President Maduro to see these images and realise what we want. We are tired of socialism. We don’t like socialism. We love capitalism. We love to have everything, to live like people here in Colombia live. He should realise how things are, what is happening. Why do we have to be humiliated like this?”

Millions of Venezuelans spend much of their day in long lines at supermarkets and shops to try to buy basic items. The shortages have sparked protests.

Venezuela imports almost everything it consumes and the government tightly controls foreign exchange levels and prices.

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