EspañolOn July 5, members of the Venezuelan Army demolished three bridges on the Colombian-Venezuelan border following a “series of misunderstandings” with the people from the Colombian town of Norte de Santander. More than 18,000 locals who live near the border will be affected by the destruction of the bridges, as they provided an important gateway to education and health services and for commercial activities.
The Office of the Ombudsman in Colombia released a statement saying “the swinging bridges were located in La Colina [in Colombia], an hour away from Herrán, near El Oasis, and near the banks of El Táchira river [in Venezuela].” Norte de Santander’s local police has been taking the locals’ complaints and will continue to investigate the incident.
The Ombudsman’s office further stated that “members of the military of the neighboring country also crossed the border and harassed the [Colombian] people.”
Jorder Armando Otalora, Colombia’s Ombudsman, asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to “adopt diplomatic measures that would safeguard the rights of these citizens and avoid a humanitarian crisis on the border,” according to El País. In addition, he asked that the local residents’ complaints be looked at and investigated.
— Defensoría delPueblo (@DefensoriaCol) July 9, 2014
The Ombudsman’s office reiterated that their priority is to “safeguard human rights and to avoid a humanitarian crisis in the border.”
The Colombian locals were not the only ones affected by the incident. Approximately 50 Venezuelan students enrolled in Colombian schools were not able to attend classes as a result of the incident. Others affected included nine children who benefited from the Colombian education plan “Zero to Always” and professors who were pursuing their doctorate degrees in the Venezuelan town of Rubio.
The Colombian-Venezuelan border is one of the main exit routes for Venezuelans who continue to flee the crisis in the country led by Nicolás Maduro.
Currently, both nations are building the International Tienditas bridge over the Táchira river. It will connect the Venezuelan town of Pedro María Ureña with the Colombian town of Cúcuta. According to Governor José Gregorio Vielma Mora of Táchira, the bridge will encourage economic trade between both nations. However, after a US$32 million investment in the project, the bridge remains unfinished.
The Venezuelan government has yet to respond to its neighboring country’s accusations.