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Venezuela's Maduro says border with Colombia to reopen

Luisa Gonzalez, REUTERS | A Colombian army member observes the passage of people on the Simon Bolivar international bridge, Colombia May 3, 2019. This is one of the main bridges that Maduro ordered to reopen.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro on Friday ordered the reopening of the country’s border with Colombia in western Tachira state, near where international aid refused by Caracas has amassed.

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The economically-devastated South American nation is suffering from shortages of food, medicine and other essentials amid a power struggle between Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has been recognised as interim president by more than 50 countries including the United States.

Announcing the reopening of the frontier on Twitter, Maduro said: “We are a people of peace that strongly defends our independence and self-determination.”

The full text of his tweet reads: “Exercising our sovereignty, I have ordered the opening of the border crossings with Colombia in Táchira State, starting this Saturday #8Jun. We are a people of peace that strongly defends our independence and self-determination.”

The leader, however, did not say whether crucial border bridges, closed since August 2015 after two Venezuelan soldiers were wounded by suspected smugglers, would be unblocked.

In February, Maduro ordered the total closure of land frontiers with Brazil and Colombia, as well as sea and air links with the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean.

'Economic war'

Guaido wanted to bring food and medicine into the country, but the Maduro-backed army blocked the border bridges and prevented the entry of cargo.

Maduro says Venezuela is the victim of an “economic war” waged by the United States and believes the aid was a smoke screen to prepare a “foreign invasion”.

The Venezuelan government in May reopened its land border with Brazil and the sea route with Aruba, but not with other islands such as Bonaire and Curacao.

Relations between Venezuela and Colombia, who share a land border stretching 2,220 kilometres, have been broken since February 23 after Colombian President Ivan Duque announced his support for Guaido.

Many Venezuelans cross the frontier illegally every day to get supplies because of the serious shortage of basic necessities.

(AFP)

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