Colombia to shut borders ahead of legislative elections

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia will shut land and waterway migration checkpoints for 70 hours ahead of legislative elections and presidential primaries on Sunday, the country’s migration authority said on Wednesday, noting that this is standard procedure.

This year, thousands of Venezuelans have been pouring across the border, some as migrants, others as visiting shoppers seeking basic goods as a devastating economic crisis has made many items scarce in their home country.

“Like we have done historically every time there are elections in national territory, the close of the our country’s borders has been ordered, with the goal of maintaining public order during the voting period,” Christian Kruger, the head of the migration agency, said in a statement.

Borders will shut at 6 p.m. local time on Thursday and re-open after polls close at 4 p.m. on Sunday, the statement said. There will be extra staff on hand to process waiting travelers once the checkpoints re-open, it said.

More than half a million Venezuelans have fled to Colombia, while another 650,000 are said to have entered the country on their way to other destinations or on a visit before returning home. The figures do not include thousands who are estimated to have crossed the border illegally.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Helen Murphy and David Gregorio