BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia on Wednesday began what its government called a gradual opening of its border with Venezuela after a 14-month closure intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Colombia, whose porous border with Venezuela extends roughly 1,380 miles (2,220 km), has been the chief destination for Venezuelans fleeing their country’s social and economic crisis. The two countries do not maintain diplomatic relations.
The gradual opening of river and land crossings was authorized starting at midnight on Wednesday, according to a resolution published by the Andean nation’s interior ministry. The interior ministry said biosecurity measures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic established by Colombia’s health ministry must be followed during crossings.
Colombia closed its borders in March 2020. It said its migration agency will schedule times for crossings and establish restrictions based on the last number of people’s identity documents. Colombia reopened its borders with Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Panama on May 19.
About 1.7 million Venezuelans reside in Colombia. The number could rise in the coming months following a decision by Colombian President Ivan Duque’s government to grant Venezuelan migrants temporary protective status for a period of 10 years.
Colombia accuses Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government of harboring former FARC rebels who reject a 2016 peace deal, as well as guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN). Venezuela accuses Duque of plotting to overthrow Maduro with support from the United States.
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Will Dunham)