The Colombian-Venezuelan frontier, long plagued by guerrilla warfare and organised crime, is now also the site of an inter-state standoff. The two countries should urgently reopen communication channels to lower tensions and lessen the suffering of migrants who cross the border, whether legally or otherwise.
Venezuelan President Maduro and Colombian President Santos agreed 22 Sept to “progressive” restoration of normality following Venezuela’s 19 Aug indefinite border closure; settlement involves seven commitments including investigating social problems at border, reinstating ambassadors. Venezuela implemented restrictive measures throughout month in some 28 municipalities in Táchira, Zulia, Apure and Amazonas states, placing entire corridor bordering Colombia under military control, with rights of freedom of movement and assembly suspended. Venezuela continued to deport Colombians; UN reported over 1,600 deported, 20,000 fled by late Sept.
Tensions are rising on the Colombia-Venezuela border after a new guerrilla faction opted out of Colombia’s 2016 peace deal. With diplomatic ties between the two countries severed, the risk of escalation is high. Bogotá and Caracas should open channels of communication to avoid inter-state clashes.
The borders [between Venezuela and Colombia] are unstable at the moment due to both the humanitarian situation and to the number of criminal and violent actors.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh, Richard Atwood and Ivan Briscoe, Crisis Group’s Latin America Director, talk about COVID-19’s devastation, polarisation and populism in the region, as well as the Venezuela crisis and violence in Mexico.
Crisis Group visited La Guajira, in Colombia’s far north east, where a new cohort of Venezuelan migrants are now seeking refuge. It consists of the most vulnerable, including poor expectant mothers, unaccompanied children and the sick, people with no defence against the predations of armed bands.
The frontier between Brazil and its crisis-ridden neighbour Venezuela has become a major migration route, a hotspot for crime and a flashpoint for violence.