0545 GMT February 21, 2019
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who last week tightened border controls with Venezuela, said on Tuesday that his country needed, “financial and other aid from the international community,” presstv.com reported.
“We are fully prepared to receive them (the forms of assistance). We need them because unfortunately this problem gets worse day by day,” he said at an event in the capital, Bogota.
According to Colombia’s migration authority, the number of Venezuelans living in Colombia increased by 62 percent to more than 550,000 in the second half of 2017.
Bogota says it costs five dollars per day to give each Venezuelan refugee food and accommodation. In total, Colombia estimates that it would need 30 million dollars to build an assistance center to give the refugees a temporary place to stay before deciding a next move.
More than a million Venezuelans have registered for the special refugee card that allows them to cross the border by day to buy food and other products. Santos said he would reduce the number of these cards.
Colombian soldiers are seen at the border with Venezuela in Cucuta, on February 13, 2018. (REUTERS)
In an effort to establish order at the long border with Venezuela, Santos said last week that he would impose stricter migratory controls and deploy 3,000 new security personnel along the frontier, including 2,120 more soldiers.
Following the announcement, Venezuela accused Bogota of plotting a military attack on the country. Venezuela’s state prosecutor Tarek Saab said on Monday that Colombia was plotting to send its military forces across the border.
However, the head of Colombia’s military, General Alberto Jose Mejia, denied the allegation on Wednesday, saying there was a ‘zero chance’ Colombian troops would cross into Venezuela. He also called the Venezuelan accusation ridiculous.
Oil-rich Venezuela, once one of the wealthiest nations in the region, has now been plagued by a growing economic crisis that includes hyperinflation, and food and medicine shortages.
The government of President Nicolas Maduro says the economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the United States are to blame for the acute economic crisis. The opposition says Maduro has spectacularly mismanaged the economy.