Colombia-Venezuela border closed after merchant's death, clashes with police

Colombian street vendors clashed for hours with Venezuela's national guard Wednesday after an alleged Colombian smuggler was killed, leading authorities to briefly close the main border crossing between the two countries.

Officials in Colombia said the trouble began when Venezuelan authorities discovered a man on a hidden trail trying to smuggle goods across the notoriously porous border and the man died in the confrontation.

There was no official word on how the Colombian merchant died, but local media reported that he was hit by a bullet in the neck. Another person was injured in the initial confrontation.

As news of the death spread, more than 100 Colombian vendors began protesting on the Venezuelan side of the Simon Bolivar bridge connecting the two countries. That escalated into more than eight hours of clashes as riot police fired tear gas and masked demonstrators burned tires.

Order was restored by the end of the day and a long line of trucks held up at the crossing were allowed to proceed.

Colombian merchants routinely cross the border to purchase price-regulated goods in Venezuela and then sneak them into Colombia to be resold for big profits.