Venezuela, Colombia talk migrant dispute amid crisis

Foreign ministers of Venezuela and Colombia agree to cooperate for border security

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Venezuela Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez (L) and her Colombian counterpart Maria Angela Holguin (R) in a news conference after the bilateral meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, August 26, 2015.

Foreign ministers of Colombia and Venezuela met on Wednesday in Cartagena, Colombia to talk about the migrant dispute by the border of the two countries. The crisis emerged after a conflict between Venezuelan soldiers and Colombian smugglers, followed by the closure of the two border transits indefinitely by the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The diplomats said the officials from the two countries will meet in the following days for a joint plan on border security. They didn’t release any statements on whether they reached an agreement on border transits or the deportation of Colombian migrants in border villages of Venezuela.

As the talk continued, many Colombian migrants were packing their belongings for a possible deportation as it happened to over 1,000 people earlier this week. 5,000 other have fled carrying their belongings in fear of deportation all of a sudden.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos promised for $80 subsidy and help to find jobs for the deportees to rebuild their lives.

"Our deported aren't paramilitaries, they're poor families," he said, referring to Maduro's justification of his decision to deport his countrymen living in the bordering cities. Maduro had said that he was only fighting against smugglers and paramilitaries. He claimed the smugglers were paramilitaries linked to the former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe.

Venezuela, an oil rich country, has been facing an economic downturn recently with the drop in oil prices. Santos shared economic statistics showing that Venezuelan economy will shrink 7 percent this year and experience shortages similar to those seen in war zones like Syria and Afghanistan, in a speech with former presidents earlier on Tuesday.

Maduro, on the other hand, claims that Venezuelans are unfairly paying the price for Colombia's disregard of its poor. Speaking on state TV on Tuesday, Maduro said “Who is treating Colombians with disrespect? Those that expel them from their country, deny them work and housing and don't provide education?"

There are 5 million Colombians living in Venezuela, who either escaped from the civil conflict in their country or migrated for a better life. The deportation decision includes a few towns in the border.

As the debate continues, protests arose in both countries. On Wednesday, 300 people marched towards Venezuela’s consulate in Bogota with Uribe’s leading, to condemn Maduro’s “Nazi tactics.”

Venezuelan officials also called for people to support Maduro’s campaign against paramilitaries in a march at the capital on Friday.

TRTWorld and agencies