Venezuela closes Colombian border to stop smuggling

By Ben Tavener, Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Venezuela will close its border at night to stop government-subsidized fuel and food being smuggled into Colombia and resold at higher prices

Venezuela will close its border at night to stop government-subsidized fuel and food being smuggled into Colombia and resold at higher prices

SAO PAULO – Venezuela is set to close its border with Colombia overnight from Monday in a bid to stop government-subsidized food and fuel being smuggled out of the country, officials in Venezuela have said.

"From Monday a controlled closure of the border with Colombia will be effected from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. with the purpose of combating contraband from Venezuela into Colombia," Venezuelan state news agency AVN reported.

All cargo vehicles will be banned from crossing the border for an additional four hours, with the ban starting from 6 p.m., it added.

Venezuelan military chief Vladimir Padrino Lopez told local media the whole 2,200km (1,370 mile) border would be subject to nightly closures.

Lopez said the armed forces had seized 21 tonnes of food so far this year, "enough to feed almost 700,000 people for a month," and the amount confiscated in July exceeded the total for the whole of last year.

Over 40 million liters of gasoline have also been seized, he said.

The measures were agreed between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos earlier this month.

The governments say the smuggling damages both countries economically.

For years food and fuel bought in Venezuela at government-controlled prices has been taken to the Colombian market, where prices can be up to 10 times higher.

Oil-rich Venezuela sells petrol at 29 times less than it costs to produce, at under $0.02 per liter. In Colombia the average figure in July was around $1.20 per liter.

Shortages of essential supplies in the western Venezuela contributed to anti-government protests earlier this year. Scores of people died in the ensuing security crackdown.

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