Venezuela and Colombia will reopen their land borders and resume commercial flights, suspended for five years, the presidents of both countries, Nicolás Maduro and Gustavo Petro, announced this Friday, a decision framed in the restoration of bilateral relations, interrupted in 2019.
On September 26 “we will jointly open the borders between Venezuela and Colombia. In addition, we will resume flights between Caracas-Bogotá and Valencia-Bogotá,” Maduro said on Twitter. “On September 26 we will open the border between Colombia and Venezuela. As a first step, the air connection and cargo transport between our countries will be resumed. We confirm the Government’s commitment to re-establish brotherly relations,” Petro tweeted for his part.
Both countries formally resumed relations on Monday, August 29 with the arrival in Caracas of the Colombian ambassador Armando Benedetti, as well as the arrival in Bogotá of the Venezuelan ambassador Félix Plasencia. The Avianca airline, which covered more than 50% of the Caracas-Bogotá flights, suspended operations to and from Venezuela in July 2017, alleging that it was doing so to “preserve security” in the face of “operational limitations.”
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This aggravated the exodus of international airlines from Caracas, which began in 2014, when oil prices – a source of 96% of the country’s foreign currency at the time – began to collapse, causing the accumulation of debts of 3.8 billion dollars with the airlines, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
This reduction in supply exponentially increased the cost of tickets on the few available airlines. Venezuela broke off relations with Colombia in 2019 in response to the support of former President Iván Duque’s administration for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
With the normalization of relations, Caracas and Bogotá hope to revive the commercial exchange, which was close to 7,200 million dollars in 2008 but collapsed with the closure of the border. The transit of cargo vehicles has been restricted since 2015, allowing only pedestrian passage, after Maduro denounced an ambush by armed groups on a military patrol in the state of Táchira (west), where the most important crossing between the two countries is located. .
In 2019 it was completely blocked, in Táchira, with the placement of huge metal containers on border bridges after disturbances caused by Guaidó’s failed attempt to pass food and medical supplies sent by the United States to Venezuela.
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“How good it is to have relations of dialogue, communication, understanding, respect, cooperation, solidarity and love with Colombia!” Maduro later said in a broadcast on the state channel VTV, once again celebrating the reestablishment of relations.
The president also reiterated his desire to have “one day” relations “of respect and cooperation, at a high level with the governments of the United States of America.” For his part, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Carlos Faría, said on Twitter that “the political will” of Petro and Maduro “have been the key to this beginning in the economic, social and human rapprochement.” Venezuela and Colombia share a 2,200-kilometer border where the presence of irregular groups has been reported, as well as mafias dedicated to smuggling and other crimes.