Colom­bian pres­i­dent tours tense bor­der city amid spat with Venezuela

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Colom­bia’s Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos vis­ited a tense bor­der city Satur­day amid an es­ca­lat­ing row with neigh­bor­ing Venezuela that trig­gered de­por­ta­tions and the ex­o­dus of thou­sands of Colom­bians back home.

“I am here to make sure our fel­low Colom­bians get the ser- vices they need,” San­tos said as he be­gan the tour of Cu­cuta, a far north­east­ern city of about 700,00 with close busi­ness ties to Venezuela and which has been on edge.

The cri­sis erupted on Aug.19 af­ter Venezuela’s Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro closed the bor­der and then de­clared a state of emer­gen- cy fol­low­ing an in­ci­dent in which three Venezue­lan sol­diers were shot and wounded by two as­sailants on a mo­tor­cy­cle.

The two coun­tries re­called their re­spec­tive am­bas­sadors as ten­sions rose.

Maduro has said 3,000 troops were be­ing de­ployed to search “high and low” for Colom­bian paramil­i­taries, whom he has blamed for last week’s shoot­ing.

Since then, 1,097 Colom­bians have been sum­mar­ily de­ported from Venezuela and sev­eral thou­sand more Colom­bians have fled for home, fear­ful of be­ing tar­geted as well.

San­tos stopped at a fill­ing sta­tion in Cu­cuta — where peo­ple waited in line for hours to get ga­so­line — to re­as­sure them that sup­plies would not be in­ter­rupted.

Mayor Dona­maris Ramirez said that be­fore the row, 90 per­cent of lo­cals bought their ga­so­line at in­for­mal fill­ing sta­tions run by smug­glers who get cu­trate sub­si­dized fuel from oil-rich Venezuela.

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