CÚCUTA, COLOMBIA —
For many months, Simón Bolívar International Bridge has been a conduit for people surging into this border city, many of them fleeing Venezuela's dire political and economic straits or just seeking to stock up on food and medicine that's scarce back home.
On Sunday evening, the bridge also served as backdrop to a plea for peace as, 850 kilometers away in Caracas, Venezuela's socialist government wrapped up an election that many fear will tip the country into dictatorship and trigger more violence.
"We’re praying to God for peace for the nation of Venezuela," said Luz Adriana Chalarca, founder of the Community of the Divine Infant.
She had organized a vigil bringing at least a dozen people to the span to offer prayers and hymns. She and another woman each carried figures of baby Jesus encased in clear plastic. Others hoisted a Venezuelan flag that stretched nearly the width of the bridge and included an image of the Christ child.
Singing and praying, the group marched to the Venezuelan side of the bridge, where two border guards stood watch.
Chalarca, whose white shirt bore a Colombian flag on its sleeve, shook hands with one of the guards and presented him with the doll.
"We come to give you sons of Venezuela a symbol of peace," she said, adding her hope that "this little Jesus Emanuel will live in all your hearts."
The guard said nothing but, with a gentle smile, accepted the doll and a hug from Chalarca.
Then a young woman in a baseball cap approached the guard. "We're the same – we’re brothers," she said to him. Alluding to Venezuelan security troops' use of force at anti-government protests, she added, "No more repression, please."
The guard turned away, still silent and still clutching the Christ child. Prayer couldn't hold back politics.