An estimated 25,000 Venezuelans trek across the Simon Bolivar International Bridge into Colombia each day for work or to trade goods on the black market.
Increasingly, they are also coming to eat in one of half a dozen facilities offering struggling Venezuelans a free plate of food.
Border cities like Cucuta have become firsthand witnesses to the neighbouring South American nation’s escalating humanitarian crisis.
The Colombian government has crafted contingency plans in the event of a sudden, mass exodus.
Church groups and non-profit organisations already are stepping in, moved by images of mothers carrying starving babies and skinny men trying to make a few dollars on Cucuta’s streets.
Seeking to highlight the growing plight in Venezuela, United States Vice-President Mike Pence met with people who have fled the country to Colombia.
Pence visited the Calvary Chapel in Cartagena, where he met with faith leaders and Venezuelan families before planning to depart to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
His wife, Karen Pence, helped to lead a prayer circle, where she prayed for “comfort to the Venezuelan refugees”.
The vice president and his wife also spent time speaking with the migrants, listening to their emotional stories. Reporters were not able to hear their conversations, but watched the vice president comfort several women, including at least one who was seen wiping away tears.
He said he heard “heartbreaking” stories of their struggle for food.
“President Trump’s made it very clear we will not stand by while Venezuela collapses into dictatorship,” Pence said, arguing that “a failed state in Venezuela threatens the security and prosperity of our entire hemispheres and the people of the United States”.
Pence is trying to rally the region against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s attempts to consolidate power. Pence yesterday denounced Maduro’s tactics and said the US will not stand by as Venezuela “crumbles”. AP