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Valentine's Day is a crazy rush for Colombia, one of the biggest flower exporters in the world, resulting in huge demand for labor in greenhouses near Bogota. That's how Rubiela Mendez and William Perez found themselves shivering in a cold they'd never known, preparing roses in a hangar 500 kilometers from their hometown of Cucuta, on the jungle-steamy eastern border with Venezuela.They are among hundreds of Colombians and Venezuelans brought in on buses – a 12-hour trip over not-so-great roads – to ready the fragrant flowers for shipment to the United States. Although Colombia has a nationwide unemployment rate of 10 percent, joblessness in Cucuta is significantly higher, reaching 16 percent last year. Mendez said that the situation has worsened in past months, with Venezuelans who are fleeing economic despair in the country coming over the border to work for half the rate paid to Colombians in the town.That's how it came to be, in mid-January, that it transported in 600 people, 80 percent of them Colombians, to its production center.Colombian officials say more than 550,000 Venezuelans have crossed the border, legally or illegally, and the number is expected to double by June.
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