Colombia urges Venezuela to reopen border

AFP| Last Updated: Aug 23, 2015, 01:01 AM IST

Colombia`s President Juan Manuel Santos urged Venezuela on Saturday to reconsider its decision to close its border in response to an attack by unidentified assailants on a military patrol.

"If it`s for security reasons, the response should not be to close the border. It rather should be to cooperate more effectively with Colombian authorities," Santos said.

Venezuela`s President Nicolas Maduro ordered the border closure after Wednesday`s attack in the restive western state of Tachira, which borders Colombia.

Maduro had initially closed the border for 72 hours, but on Friday he extended it indefinitely and declared a state of emergency in Tachira, a hotbed of opposition to his leftist government.

Authorities said two assailants on a motorcycle fired on a patrol that was on a counter-smuggling mission in the town of San Antonio del Tachira, wounding three soldiers and a civilian.

Santos said the two countries had the same interest in eliminating the gangs of smugglers that operate on the border, and should work more closely together.

He said the only ones who gain from closing the borders are the smugglers, while for everyone else it causes "inconvenience, annoyance, and makes a lot of innocent people pay for the broken crockery."

Smuggling has surged along the border under Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.

The Venezuelan government has blamed the smuggling of heavily subsidized food and other goods to Colombia for widespread shortages throughout the country.