Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro shut the border with Colombia on Aug. 20, after three soldiers were shot when they were looking for smugglers. Maduro told state-run media four days later that he has no plans to re-open the border anytime soon.
The Venezuelan government has deported around 1,000 Colombians in the past week and an estimated 5,000 more have voluntary chosen to leave for fear of deportation while they can, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said.
Among the people who are fleeing, some have been accused of food smuggling across the border, the BBC reported. Venezuelan authorities say that they buy cheap products in Venezuela and then they sell them at a higher rate in Colombia.
Many Colombians moved to neighboring Venezuela in the early 2000s to escape the country's drug war, and to take advantage of state subsidies like free housing and healthcare granted by former president Hugo Chávez.
But the current government, plagued by a growing economic crisis and high inflation rates, is trying to cut down on those subsidies and forcing people out of their homes, leaving many no choice but to flee across the border.
According to the Association of Colombians in Venezuela, more than 9,000 Colombians were forced to leave Venezuela in the past 10 months. An estimated 5 million Colombians live in Venezuela at present.
Some who were forced to flee said they were given 72 hours to pack up and leave by Venezuelan security forces, the AP reported. And so they crossed the river Táchira, Venezuela to Cúcuta, Colombia, carrying their belongings.
The Colombian city of Cúcuta is now hosting those who have crossed the river that connects the two countries.
Maduro told a press conference broadcast by state television on Aug. 24 that more than 120,000 Colombians had settled in Venezuela in the first six months of 2015 and accused Colombians of bringing "food scarcity" and "violence" to the country.
Maduro also said that people crossing the border to Venezuela are provoking a massive migration movement like Africans in Europe.
Maduro is also rejecting comparisons between his actions and the immigration plans of presidential candidate Donald Trump. “I don’t have Donald Trump’s hairdo and much less his bank account and even less his ideology,” he said.
Former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe compared Maduro to Hitler, saying that, just as Hitler preached hate against Jews, "[the Venezuelan government] is promoting hate against Colombian people."
Some Venezuelans have expressed their anger at Uribe with the hashtag #UribeVenezuelaSeRespeta (#UribeShouldRespectVenezuela) on Twitter.
Uribe, who is currently in office as a senator in Colombia, is asking for international help, appealing to the UN and other organisms, arguing that this is a humanitarian crisis.
Another former Colombian president, César Gaviria, also told local media that Venezuela should be held accountable for human rights violations. For now, though, the Venezuela National Assembly has decreed the the border will remain closed for 60 days.
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