Colombia and Venezuela announce special IDs for border citizens

Colombia and Venezuela will issue special identity documents to residents living along the border between the countries as a first step to fully reopen the border that’s been closed for a year.

The decision came after the foreign ministers of both countries met to discuss a permanent reopening of the border which was closed almost a year ago.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he would remain the joint border closed until Venezuela “can ensure a healthy and free economy without contraband products, without paramilitaries.”

The Venezuelan head of state surprisingly and unilaterally began closing the border in August last year after three security officials were shot by alleged drug traffickers.

In the five hour long meeting on Thursday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez accepted her Colombian counterpart’s proposal to introduce new IDs for citizens living on both sides of the border. These IDs will contain “fundamental information about the activities that take place,” said Rodriguez.

The Venezuelan foreign minister considered the step a measure to heighten security controls and crack down on the contraband of gasoline, drug trafficking and organized crime, all rampant in the area.

Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin stated “the proposal of the new ID will be very useful” and will contribute to a “safe reopening of the border”.

Security teams will meet next week to establish international military cooperation in order to “fight the international agents of crime who participate in the contraband, narcotraffic and illicit activities” Rodriguez stated.

Holguin added that the gradual border reopening will be decided by Maduro and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in another meeting expected to be confirmed in the coming days.

The foreign ministers also announced plans to install venezuelan gas stations on the Colombian side of the border.  The Venezuelan gasoline, the cheapest in the world, will be sold in colombian pesos. Access to the gasoline at market prices will help to reduce the contraband of gasoline in the zone.

Rodriguez and Holguin affirmed that during the meeting all the necessary points were addressed and that procedures such as the introduction of new ID and gas installations will create the right environment to gradually reopen the border.

Colombia Report | by Holly Eustance

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