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Cablegate: Venezuela - Colombia Bridge Blockade Lifted

VZCZCXRO7887
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHCV #2125 3062140
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 022140Z NOV 07 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0035
INFO RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS

UNCLAS CARACAS 002125

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

HQSOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
DEPT PASS TO AID/OTI RPORTER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM VE CO
SUBJECT: VENEZUELA - COLOMBIA BRIDGE BLOCKADE LIFTED

REF: A. CARACAS 01680

B. BOGOTA 07225

1. (SBU) Summary. Truckers ended a 97-day binational
blockade of bridges joining Venezuela and Colombia on October
13 after the Colombian government agreed to relocate toll
booths, giving motorists alternate local routes to avoid the
Colombian tolls. Truck drivers from both countries were
protesting the Colombian levy with a series of blockades
since July 2. The blockades cost the local Venezuelan
economy an estimated USD 5-6 million per day in lost revenue
and required the personal efforts of the Colombian Foreign
Minister to end the blockade. End Summary.

--------------------
Bridge Impasse Ends
--------------------

2. (SBU) Venezuelan and Colombian truckers started this
bilateral disagreement by blockading border crossings in
Tachira because of Colombia's decision to charge tolls at
border crossings between Tachira State and the Colombian city
of Cucuta. The 97-day spat eventually closed several
international bridges that connect Tachira State to
Colombia's Norte de Santader Department. Losses to trade as
a result of the protests and border closures--through which
70 to 80 percent of Venezuelan-Colombian trade is
conducted--were estimated as high as 5-6 million a day. An
IVP alumn in Tachira told Poloff that the closures had
damaged the economies of the Venezuelan towns of Bolivar and
Pedro Maria Urena, but both are now recovering.

3. (SBU) Venezuelan government officials supported the
demand that Colombia withdraw the tolls. Foreign Minister
Maduro urged Colombia on August 10 to eliminate the toll
charges and asked that it behave in the same "neighborly
spirit" as Venezuela. Vice Foreign Minister Pavel Rondon
acted as an intermediary between the protesters and the
Colombian governemnt. Colombian Foreign Minister Fernando
Araujo announced October 12 the relocation of toll booths
four kilometers further down the road in Colombia, allowing
motorists a local traffic route to avoid the tolls.
DUDDY

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