Colombia, Venezuela agree to reopen border gradually after presidents meet

CARACAS, Venezuela, Aug. 12 (UPI) — Nearly a year since it was closed, the Colombian-Venezuelan border is expected to partially reopen Saturday after the countries’ leaders held a meeting.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday said the border will be opened daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. In the first phase of the process, only pedestrians will be allowed to cross five checkpoints along the border.

Maduro said improvements in bilateral relations and in border security helped the leaders reach the decision to reopen the border. The border will be reopened fully after the countries reach separate agreements on security, trade and energy.

The Colombian and Venezuelan border was partially closed last August and later completely closed by Maduro last year after three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian were injured in an attack by suspected smugglers in Venezuela’s San Antonio del Tachira border town in the state of Táchira.

Colombia and Venezuela’s 1,400-mile border is porous and highly unregulated. It’s was often used by smugglers to purchase heavily subsidized goods in Venezuela to resell in Colombia for a profit. Amid an economic crisis in Venezuela in which basic goods can not be found on store shelves, tens of thousands of Venezuelans traveled to Colombia to buy basic goods during a temporary opening of the border on recent weekends.

“With government of Venezuela, we agreed to open border gradually. The commitment is to ensure order and control,” Santos said in a statement.

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