Speaking to press on Friday, Colombia’s Santos called for a UNASUR meeting to address the border situation with Venezuela.
Venezuela closed the border earlier this week in an attempt to address the flow of paramilitaries into the country from Colombia, as well as the extreme situation of food smuggling from Venezuela to Colombia. On Thursday, Venezuela and Colombia recalled their respective ambassadors for consultations regarding the border crisis between both countries.
“We demand respect for the human rights of all these Colombians … who have been mistreated … they deserve to be treated with dignity,” Santos said.
He also called on Venezuelan authorities to “facilitate” families who need to be together. He created a commission to attend to border issues, and said he had ordered that the supply of gasoline, a subsidised good regularly smuggled into Colombia from Venezuela for huge profits, be increased by 30 percent.
His comments follow private media allegations in the region that the deportation of 1,200 Colombians by Venezuela in the last few days is a “humanitarian crisis.” Venezuelan politicians however, have pointed out that those deported were mostly engaged in illegal activity in Venezuela, contributing to product shortages in the country or collaborating with the opposition to carry out violent attacks. Colombian paramilitaries shot three Venezuelan soldiers last week.
Venezuelan authorities have also pointed out that the country is home to 5 million Colombians, many of whom flee conflict, violence, poverty, and a lack of social services in their own country, to Venezuela where they have full access to health, education, and often jobs.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has also criticized Colombia for allowing black market exchange rates of the Venezuelan bolivar, which has contributed to huge currency speculation, and a devaluing of the bolivar, at the black market rate. Maduro said the border will remain closed “until there is peace.”
Maduro also took to Twitter to make a plea for peace and against paramilitaries operating on the Venezuelan-Colombian border.
“The people of Venezuela and Colombia are in the streets, speaking with one voice, saying no to paramilitarism, we want peace, peace, peace,” he said.
El Pueblo de Venezuela y Colombia en la Calle dicen en una sola voz no al paramilitarismo,queremos Paz...Paz...Paz... pic.twitter.com/twfhf4Yjct— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) August 28, 2015
“The people of Venezuela and Colombia are in the streets, speaking with one voice, saying no to paramilitarism, we want peace, peace, peace.”