“If the minimum humanitarian conditions are met, I will sit down to solve this problem, and I assure President Maduro that we can solve it.”
– President Santos
“We are fighting to overthrow a dictatorship, that of the Colombian paramilitaries. Any paramilitary we capture will go to prison, as will those who support them.”
– President Maduro
Almost 19,000 Colombian nationals have left their homes in the ongoing border crisis between Colombia and Venezuela, according to statistics released by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on September 8.
The dispute began on August 19, when Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro ordered the closing of the Tachira border crossing, alleging that an attack on three soldiers had been carried out by Colombian smugglers.
To date, Maduro has declared a state of emergency in 13 municipalities – three of which were announced on September 7. He has also closed the Paraguachon crossing between Zulia state and the Colombian department La Guajira. Venezuela’s government has sent 3,000 troops to patrol the border crossing, according to El Tiempo, and only the indigenous wayuu will be allowed to cross freely.
The UNHCR also reports that almost 1,500 Colombians have been forcibly deported since the outbreak of the dispute, some of whom are legal refugees or asylum seekers who had previously benefited from the protection of the Venezuelan authorities.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has stated his willingness to talk, but has only seen one of his three conditions for ensuring the ‘basic rights’ of his compatriots met.
Maduro has, at points, said that he is ready for dialogue, but also refused to give in to Colombian demands, claiming “The only person who can place conditions is me, since we are the ones under attack”.
Meanwhile, border towns like Cucuta are struggling to deal with the escalating humanitarian emergency caused by a massive influx of people. The government has promised subsidies and job creation.