Thousands of Venezuelans poured into neighboring Colombia this weekend after the Maduro regime partially re-opened the border following a four-month blockade.
The Maduro regime re-opened the border on Saturday, having closed it in February in an attempt to stop U.S.-provided humanitarian aid from entering the country.
“In full exercise of our sovereignty, I have ordered the opening of the border crossings with Colombia in the State of Táchira, this Saturday 8th June,” Maduro wrote on Twitter. “We are a people of peace that firmly defend our independence and self-determination.”
En ejercicio pleno de nuestra soberanía, he ordenado la apertura de los pasos fronterizos con Colombia en el Estado Táchira, a partir de este sábado #8Jun. Somos un pueblo de paz que defiende firmemente nuestra independencia y autodeterminación.
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) June 7, 2019
By midday, 18,000 Venezuelans had crossed into Colombia via the Simon Bolívar International Bridge, many of whom were in desperate need of food and medicine.
Before its closure in February, approximately 30,000 people crossed the Simon Bolivar International Bridge every day, from San Antonio del Tachira, Venezuela, to the border town of Cúcuta, where humanitarian efforts are taking place.
Although the closure reduced the flow of mass migration, many desperate Venezuelans crossed via hidden trails linking the two countries, often putting them at the mercy of people smugglers and armed groups.
Last month, the Director General of Colombia’s Migration Agency Christian Krüger Sarmiento confirmed that there are now approximately 1.2 million Venezuelans living in Colombia, the vast majority of whom have fled as a result of the humanitarian crisis in their homeland caused by the socialist regime.
“As long as dictator Nicolás Maduro continues to violate the human rights of millions of people, we will continue to have this migration,” said Sarmiento.
A study published last December by the Brookings Institute estimated that as many as 8.2 million Venezuelans could leave the country by 2021, joining the over two million who have fled since 2015. Other popular destinations for Venezuelan refugees have included Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and the Dominican Republic.
Last October, Colombia’s Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo warned that the government is preparing to receive around four million Venezuelans by 2021 if the situation does not change.
“In a pessimistic scenario – that is, a scenario that starts from the situation getting worse – we are talking about (receiving) four million Venezuelans in Colombia,” said Trujillo. “According to the baseline scenario, Colombia will receive a number that could reach 2,166,000 Venezuelans.”
“In an optimistic scenario, which would see things improving in Venezuela, the number would be around 1,850,000,” he continued. “We are facing the magnitude of a challenge that neither our country nor the region has experienced before.”