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Venezuela Opened Its Border And The Rush Of Hungry People Was Nuts

An estimated 35,000 people crossed the border into Colombia to purchase food and medicine to bring back into the socialist country.

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Tens of thousands of Venezuelans crossed the border into Colombia on Sunday to take advantage of a brief opportunity to purchase food and medicine currently unavailable in their own country.

Though once the strongest economy in Latin America, Venezuela has been hard-hit over the last few years by low oil prices, triple-digit inflation, and political upheaval.

George Castellanos / AFP / Getty Images

That economic turmoil has affected Venezuelans harshly, with shortages of food, medicine, and household goods becoming the norm now for nearly four years.

That instability led to the government heavily subsidizing goods, which was a boon to the smuggling trade — goods bought in socialist Venezuela were then sold in Colombia for much higher prices.

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Last August, to help crack down on the smuggling, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the border with Colombia closed and the forced deportation of thousands of Colombians.

That prompted authorities to officially open the bridge connecting the two countries briefly on Sunday.

George Castellanos / AFP / Getty Images

Over the course of 12 hours, 35,000 people streamed from the Venezuelan city of San Antonio de Tachira into Tachira, on the Colombian side, a Colombian official told the BBC.

Videos showed hordes of shoppers, many carrying small children, crowding supermarkets and later carrying bags filled with cooking oil and diapers back across the border.

There's no word yet on whether the border opening will happen again in the near future or be made permanent when it does.

George Castellanos / AFP / Getty Images

Maduro is facing an uncertain future himself, as thousands of Venezuelans have signed a referendum asking for his removal and fresh elections.

Karla Zabludovsky is the Mexico bureau chief and Latin America correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Mexico City.

Contact Karla Zabludovsky at karla.zabludovsky@buzzfeed.com.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

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