Worsening relations between Colombia and Venezuela led to a decision on November 3 by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to close the border between the two countries. Instead of giving in to the obstacle however, residents from either side are finding every way round it.

On November 9 President Chavez told Venezuelans to prepare for war with Colombia, after it emerged the US army had been granted access to seven of the country's military bases. Chavez had already closed the border with Colombia a week earlier, following the murder of two border guards. Caracas suspected the Colombian paramilitary of carrying out the attack. This was followed by the killing of nine Venezuelans from the border town of Tachira. And to top things off, Chavez believed that the government in Bogota was planning to assassinate him.

Chavez deployed 15,000 Bolivian National Guards (GNB) along a 2,000-metre stretch of the frontier. The border towns of Mara, Páez and Almirante Padilla soon found themselves home to tanks and armoured vehicles.

Despite the tensions, however, residents from both sides of the border remain on good terms, and even manage, in various ways, to reach their neighbour's side.

 Globovision

 Globovision
Images from state run media Globovision.

“It’s only Chavez who’s being hostile"

Edgar Alirio Álvarez writes a blog about the Colombian border town of Cúcuta, where he lives.

The worst affected by this crisis are border towns like Cúcuta, San Cristóbal and Táchira. Economic activity has been paralysed and difficulties getting across the border mean that many companies have been forced to put their employees on ‘holiday'. Both countries are suffering. On the Venezuelan side they're missing essentials that they usually get from Colombia, which is why trade is continuing. People take detours to get round the checkpoints, leading to nasty situations when they're spotted by the guards. Bridges between the two territories have been overrun. People are even making money by renting ladders or helping people cross the river.

Most people don't envisage war here. It's only Chavez who's being hostile. A lot of people think the Venezuelan president's warlike declarations are just a way of drawing attention away from internal problems."