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Venezuelans flock across Colombia border to stock up on basics

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Venezuelans flock across Colombia border to stock up on basics

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Venezuelans came in their thousands – many queuing overnight.

All of those gathering at the border on Saturday were desperate to cross into Colombia to stock up on basic supplies.

A military band was on hand for the official reopening of a frontier that has been closed for a year, a year in which shortages of basic goods have reached crisis point in Venezuela, which is facing unprecedented economic strife.

Venezuela’s stores lack the most basic foods and medicines. Queues of hundreds and even thousands of people are common, and riots and looting are a daily occurrence.



“In San Cristobel, we can’t find rice,” said Venezuelan Nancy Cardenas, who was crossing the border.

“You go all day looking, two days, three days, queuing up and you can’t get rice because there is no rice in Venezuela. There is no rice, no sugar, no toilet paper. There is no bath soap, no washing powder for your clothes.”

Fellow Venezuelan Heriberto Salinas was seeking tablets for his wife’s thrombosis that he can’t find at home.

“You can’t get them,” he said.

“You can’t find medicine, you can’t find food, but especially pharmaceutical products.”

“I came with my family to do some shopping because we can’t find anything to eat,” said Wilmary Salcedo, a 17-year-old engineering student who had travelled some 800 km from the central city of Maracay hoping for rice, sugar and cooking oil.

And that is why crossing the border is a lifeline for Venezuelans, who are stocking up and taking as much as they can back home.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro abruptly closed the border last August hoping, he said, to protect his country from smugglers and paramilitaries.

The border has for years been a hotbed of smuggling of everything from price-controlled toothpaste and pasta to illegal drugs and weapons.

Critics however saw Maduro’s order for its closure as a stunt to shift attention from his country’s worsening domestic problems.

After recent temporary openings, five border crossings will now be open to pedestrians during the day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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