The socialist government of Venezuela opened its western border with Colombia for 12 hours this weekend as a means of combatting growing food shortages in the nation. An estimated 35,000 took advantage of the opening to buy basic food items like sugar and flour and to visit relatives they were barred from seeing after a mass deportation last year.
The government of President Nicolás Maduro announced on Friday that the border would be fully open for those seeking to travel to Colombia from the border state of Táchira for 12 hours. Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reports that the line to cross the bridge into Cúcuta, Colombia began forming at 3 AM the morning before the event, with Venezuelans passing the time by chanting “holy land,” referring to the neighboring country, and counting the goods they were hoping to buy. Border patrol agents began to allow Venezuelans to cross the border at 5 AM local time.
“We don’t have anything to eat to give our children, so I don’t find it fair that the border remains closed,” one woman who crossed the border told El Tiempo. Those who managed to stock up during the limited time that the border remained open, however, appeared satisfied. “We bought rice, pasta, sugar, toilet paper, butter, everything we could bring back. We had enough for lots of stuff,” one father told the Spanish newswire service EFE. All expressed gratitude towards Colombian vendors for welcoming them to Cúcuta, with some carrying signs reading, “Colombia, thank you for your solidarity with Venezuela.”