BOGOTA - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Tuesday urged the government of Venezuela to respect Colombians living in border areas and called the abuse meted out to those living in Tachira 'unacceptable' and 'intolerable'.
"We demand the government of Venezuela to respect all Colombians, from the most humble to the most powerful, from those closest to our government to those who criticize us fiercely," the President said in a statement at the presidential Casa de Nariņo in Bogota accompanied by the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Interior and Defense.
Referring to the mass deportations, separation of families and destruction of homes of Colombians in San Antonio and other places in the Venezuelan state of Tachira, Santos said every human being, even if they are in a different country and without proper documents, "deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, and deserves due process. And that is what we are going to demand."
"Leveling houses, forcing out inhabitants, separating families, not letting them collect their few possessions and marking houses to demolish them later, are totally unacceptable procedures and recall bitter episodes of humanity that cannot be repeated," said Santos.
In the last few days, Venezuelan actions against Colombians, living on its soil, have been increasingly compared to the German Nazi regime, especially after the Cucuta-San Antonio border was closed off and a state of emergency was declared by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, allegedly to pursue smugglers and paramilitary.
Santos cited the case of Graciela Portilla, a Colombian who had been living in Venezuela with her family, for more than 40 years.
Portilla was deported along with more than one thousand fellow Colombians to the border town of Cucuta.
The president also announced the foreign ministers of Colombia, Maria Angela Holguin, and of Venezuela, Delcy Rodriguez, will meet Wednesday to "discuss personally" the problems caused by "this unilateral measure of the neighboring country's government."
The two ministers will together seek a solution to the border crisis.
He also criticized those seeking political advantage of the situation in the face of the municipal and regional elections in October in Colombia and legislative elections in December in Venezuela.
The president added, "if the problem is smuggling and criminal gangs, as argued by Venezuela, then closing legal border entry points is nothing more than inefficient and counterproductive."
He added Colombia is equally interested in the fight against smuggling as it is a crime that occurs on both sides of the border.