Friday, August 28, 2015

The Venezuela-Colombia Border Crisis

The crisis at the Venezuela-Colombia border continues on, as Juan Manuel Santos recalled his ambassador and Nicolás Maduro followed suit. Maduro's argument is that right-wing paramilitaries, encouraged/funded by Alvaro Uribe, are terrorizing the border and that Santos is being tricked. He also says he'll keep the border closed.

I think one key issue is proportionality:

The number deported in recent days is now more than half the 1,772 people expelled last year from Venezuela, according to Colombian statistics, and has overwhelmed a government-built shelter in the border city of Cucuta designed to provide assistance to returning nationals.

If you have a problem of violently criminal behavior at the border, I would think there are far better ways of addressing it than mass deportation of families.

Plus, as long as Venezuelan goods, especially oil, are highly subsidized, there is an incredible incentive for smuggling to occur. It's not clear how these particular deportations affect that situation at all. Maduro says he won't open the border until Colombia "prohibits" the sale of contraband. One major problem is that Colombia hasn't controlled its borders well so this isn't going to be effective anytime soon.

Finally, Maduro has a very legitimate point to make about how many Colombians live in Venezuela because they fled their homeland. But his heavy handed tactics drown that out completely. I guess he scores a few points domestically, but stories of the affected families will likely deflate that. And he's alienating Santos, who is fighting off a lot of his own domestic opposition who argue he's been too soft with Venezuela.


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