The bridge over the river Tachira between Venezuela and Colombia is back open for the time being. If you’ve been watching this podcast you’ve seen me reporting from this bridge many times over the past four months.
Thousands of people crossed into Colombia on Saturday to buy food and medicine after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro reopened the border between the countries that had been shut down since attempts by the United States to ship aid across these same bridges resulted in the aid being burned. For the past four months, these shipping containers have blocked vehicular access to the bridges between Colombia and Venezuela in the town of Cucuta.
With the reopening, a flood of people seized on the opportunity to enter into Colombia across the river Tachira and secure items that are all but unattainable in Venezuela. This is obviously something that was still happening when the bridges were closed – I’ve reported extensively this year from this very spot. but as the gangs loyal to Maduro extorted people on one side, and the Colombian rebel groups have started to extort people on the other side, the bridge opening to all pedestrian traffic just means that people don’t have to be quite so victimized every time they cross.
But don’t take this as a sign that things are getting better in any way along the border or in Venezuela itself. They aren’t. Inflation is still dropping the value of the Venezuelan bolivar by half about every six weeks or so. Food and medicine are so scarce inside the country that Maduro opened this border because he needs people to be able to get the supplies they need to survive in order to stave off what many see as his inevitable fall from power. So he’s trying to forestall that eventuality and at the same time appear magnanimous by opening the border.
The flood of people leaving Venezuela for good continues to grow. Now over 4 million people have left officially, but those numbers don’t take into account the likely millions more who have left without any documents. But even four million amounts to about fifteen percent of the total population, with more leaving all the time.
And more venezuelans are choosing to come to the United States – last week news broke that Venezuelans are now the number one group of people making asylum claims in the United States, Venezuela has overtaken China to become the No. 1 country of origin for those claiming asylum in the U.S. upon arrival or shortly after, with nearly 30,000 Venezuelans applying for asylum with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in 2018. This year will undoubtedly be much, much higher. So there is a vital national security interest the US has in doing whatever we can to stop the suffering in venezuela.
In the meantime, many private organizations are stepping in to offer assistance. On my last trip to Cucuta, I accompanied Stronghold Rescue and Relief Services and helped put them together with some people on the ground who could get the aid we send directly to the people who need it the most. Take a look.
Stronghold is still there and is really making a difference because they are experts at recruiting people in the Midst of the problem and helping them help their neighbors.
Go check out strongholdrescue.org and give generously. The need is so acute, and groups like these can really magnify your dollars to help the most people possible.
That’s all for today folks. Thanks for watching or listening…please follow us on facebook for updates on important areas of crisis around the globe, and we love your feedback, so let us know what you think by leaving a review.
God bless you all, and thanks for being a part of the Hot Zone.