Colombia opens land, water borders with neighbors, except Venezuela

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BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia reopened on Wednesday its land and water borders with all of its immediate neighbors - with the exception of Venezuela - the ministry of foreign affairs said, as the government tries to boost economic recovery in border regions.

Colombia's government first closed its borders in March last year in an attempt to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. While sea borders were initially reopened late last year, land and river crossings remained closed.

The country's sea, land, and river crossings with Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil were opened "from zero hour on May 19, 2021", the ministry said in a statement.

"The decision was taken in the interest of advancing measures that will help economic reactivation of our border areas and the strengthening of integration processes with neighboring countries," it added.

Colombia's economy has been battered by the pandemic, with lockdowns - including a more than five-month quarantine in 2020 - shuttering businesses and sending unemployment soaring.

In order to strengthen ties with its neighbors amid the pandemic, Colombia has offered to work with the four countries to quickly adopt measures to move people, goods and vehicles across borders, the ministry added.

Colombia's President Ivan Duque last month ruled out a prompt reopening of the border with Venezuela, saying his country had to be "especially cautious" due to uncertainty over the COVID-19 situation in the neighboring country.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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