Mexico City, Mexico, August 1, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Carlos Faría signed a joint declaration Thursday with his future Colombian counterpart Álvaro Leyva as part of efforts by the two countries to normalize binational relations following the victory of Gustavo Petro in June presidential elections.
President Nicolás Maduro praised the “successful and virtuous” encounter that was carried out in the “spirit of Bolívar,” in reference to the 19th century independence leader who sought to create a united Latin America.
The declaration reaffirms the commitment of Venezuela and Colombia to appoint ambassadors and other diplomatic and consular staff once the incoming Petro government takes office on August 7. Caracas broke off diplomatic ties with Bogotá in February 2019 after the government of Iván Duque joined in Washington’s regime change efforts in neighboring Venezuela in recognizing Juan Guaidó as the self-declared “interim president.”
Leyva, a longtime advocate for a negotiated peace with Colombia’s armed leftist insurgent groups, was the first cabinet member named by President-elect Petro, who is widely considered the country’s first-ever progressive head of state.
The meeting between Farías and Leyva additionally counted on the presence of Raúl Rosende, the Deputy Special Representative in the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia. Venezuela played a key role in the successful efforts to secure a peace agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) and the Colombian state in 2016.
As part of normalization efforts, Colombia and Venezuela also earlier signed a “border agreement” to promote peace and development along their porous 2,200-kilometer shared border. Violence involving irregular armed groups and state security forces from both countries has regularly flared up on the Colombo-Venezuelan border.
Caracas has frequently blamed “imperialist agents” for the unrest and has accused the Duque government of allowing “paramilitary and drug trafficking groups” to prosper in the area. Maduro recently warned about “last minute terrorist threats” from the outgoing Iván Duque administration in Colombia.
The effort to restore diplomatic relations and reestablish commercial ties has also been driven by business sectors in both countries. The Venezuelan business chamber in the border state of Táchira celebrated a border agreement signed in early July with Colombian counterparts. The meeting, held in the Venezuelan city of San Cristóbal, was attended by business representatives from both countries, as well as the Chavista governor of Táchira Fredy Bernal.
In light of US-led sanctions that have severely hampered Venezuela’s economic development, the Maduro government has looked to boost trade and economic activity in the border region. The Venezuelan National Assembly recently approved legislation establishing “Special Economic Zones” (SEZ) in the Caribbean country, which will be created via presidential decree.
Local newspaper El Universal reported that business interests in both countries are interested in the creation of a SEZ in the area. The Venezuelan government has not explicitly stated if a SEZ will be created in the border region, although traditionally these are located in areas with heavy trade and commerce.
The Colombo-Venezuelan border has seen high levels of migration as well. Although the movement of people between the two countries has been a historic feature of the bilateral relationship, millions of Venezuelans in recent years have left in light of the multifactorial crisis afflicting the Caribbean country.
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffths recently arrived in Venezuela to meet with government officials, UN agencies, and national and international NGOs about the humanitarian challenges facing the country. The UN has expanded its activities in the country, signing an agreement last year through the World Food Program to supply school meals to 1.5 million children.
Venezuela has worked closely with other UN-affiliated bodies in recent years, including UNICEF and UNESCO. The country has likewise received support from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to fund sectors hardest hit by US-led sanctions, such as healthcare and nutrition.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.