Venezuelans entering Colombia must get migrant card

A Venezuelan soldier talks to people as they cross to Colombia over the Simon Bolivar international bridge, in San Antonio del Tachira, Venezuela December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Venezuelans who regularly cross into Colombia to work, study or shop must apply for a special migratory card to ease their passage, the Colombian government said on Thursday.

The cards will take the place of passports and allow entry to the Colombian provinces of La Guajira, Norte de Santander, Arauca, Vichada and Guania for residents of Venezuelan border areas, but not into the rest of Colombia, immigration authority head Christian Kruger said.

Thousands of Venezuelans cross the border each day to attend school, work and buy food and medicines that are scarce in the socialist country. Some 40,000 Venezuelans reside legally in Colombia.

The rule, which will take affect from Monday, comes amid tension between the neighbors, which have often been at loggerheads.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said recently that the socialist revolution in Venezuela had failed, prompting his counterpart Nicolas Maduro to threaten to reveal what he said were secrets from Colombia’s peace negotiations with Marxist rebels and plans to assassinate guerrilla leaders.

The Colombian foreign ministry said this week it was examining a refuge request from three Venezuelan soldiers. It is unclear when or how they arrived in Colombia, but Venezuelan authorities have said they deserted and fled their country in March.

Colombia is among countries that have called on Maduro to hold delayed elections as violent protests continue. Venezuela said on Wednesday it was withdrawing from the Organization of American States.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Helen Murphy and Dan Grebler