Venezuela to close border with Colombia at night to combat smuggling
CARACAS, Aug. 9 (Xinhua/Sun) -- The Venezuelan government decided to close its border with Colombia at night starting on Monday in a series of new measures to fight food and fuel smuggling, authorities said on Saturday.
Vladimir Padrino Lopez, head of the Operational Command of the Venezuelan Armed Forces, said the border will be sealed from 10 p. m. local time until 5 a.m. the next day -- the hours he said used by "smuggling mafias" to take out food and fuel from Venezuela.
Heavy traffic load and cargo will also be prohibited every day after 6 p.m. local time, he said, adding that these measures apply to the entire border of 2200 kilometers between the two Latin American countries.
Venezuela President Nicolas Madura and his Colombian counterpart June Manuel Santos agreed on the border closure when they met on Aug. 1 in Colombia's northern coast city of Cartagena to discuss measures to fight smuggling which has affected both countries economically, officials said.
Moreover, Lopez said that a Binational Command Center of Smuggling Control will also be established, with two office locations -- one in Cucuta, Colombia, and another in the Venezuelan state of Tachira.
In the first seven months of 2014, Venezuela seized 21,000 tons of smuggled food that could be used to feed around 700,000 people in one month, Lopez said.
Moreover, more than 40 million liters of gasoline have been seized by border control officials and the Armed Forces, he said.
Venezuelan authorities have said that around 40 percent of the food in Venezuela, plus 100,000 barrels of oil, are smuggled by " mafias" across the border to Colombia where the products are sold more expensive, equivalent to losses of 3.7 billion U.S. dollars per year.