CARACAS -- A mob of some 500 to 700 Venezuelans desperate for food and medicine -- most of them women -- broke into Colombia through the Ureña border pass in Tachira state, in spite of a state of exception decree issued months ago by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro shutting down the border between the two Andean region countries.
This is the first known incident of this kind since Maduro ordered the border closed by stages, starting in August 2015, after the shooting deaths of four Venezuelan nationals (three of them in the military).
Now, more than two border municipalities in the states of Apure, Tachira and Zulia are under state of exception, and the border crossings there closed.
Social and local media had a field day, comparing the event with a military operation. The “warrior women of Tachira” said Caraota Digital website, uniformed themselves in white tops and formed a “detachment” (El Pitazo) for the crossing, making it sound like a mini-Gdansk retaking.
“The homemakers that managed to buy said it’s cheaper (on the other side of the border)”, according to Twitter news account Reporte Policial.
And when they reentered Venezuela, their shopping more or less completed, they broke into the Venezuelan national anthem. They were standing on the Simon Bolivar international bridge, which is fitting: today was Independence Day and Bolivar is recognized as the Liberator of both Venezuela and Colombia (although Colombia celebrates on a different day).
All reports said the women had crossed into Colombia with the intention of shopping for essential foodstuffs, which are scarce and expensive in Venezuela. After the food run, the women posted pictures of themselves holding liter bottles of cooking oil, the spoil of the warrior women of Tachira.
Hundreds of National Guards tried to stop the mob from entering Colombia by linking arms and forming a human wall using plastic riot shields, but the Guard were no match for the women. No shots were fired and no injuries were reported.
Colombia did not stop the women from entering, all news website El Pitazo reported. Ureña’s mirror town on the Colombian side is Cucuta. Trade between the two cities was lively until it started declining as Venezuela devalued the bolivar and then stopped almost entirely after Maduro ordered the border shut last year.
The break took place in the morning of July 5th, the day Venezuelans celebrate their independence from Spain.
President Nicolas Maduro was in Caracas, presiding over the traditional July 5th military parade when the events took place. The government has not commented on the Tachira happenings.