Colombia-Venezuela Relations: Between Politics and the Economy

The success of the Bolivarian government is sustained by the strategic positioning of the political over the economic. If we postulate trade diversification and an opening to new business partners and markets, and the political situation demands it, Colombia should be substituted as a trade partner.

The last decade has
repositioned Latin America in the world, not only by the recovery of its
economies, but fundamentally by the conquest of the political spaces required
in order to achieve its independence. Two processes make that triumph concrete.
The first is the consolidation of governments identified with the intention of
developing and reclaiming the sovereignty of their nations. The other is a process
of regional integration based on strong principles of defence of self-determination
and the strategic potential of the region confronting the rest of the world.

As US hegemony tries to
survive, it will follow an agenda of threats against those who dare to defy the
instituted order. Today, those threats turn into disciplinary actions against
the ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America], and reveal themselves
as the new forms of "institutional harassment" which try to make
disappear the current of transformation that lifts Mestizo America in the dawn
of rising social conscience and social change.

In Honduras, the masks have
melted away, and the Honduran fascist faces smile together with continental
fascism. Diplomatic missions dressed in brotherhood justify the violation of
sovereignty and the annihilation of hope. The threat of the military coup
returns to the stage like honey in the perverse
mouths of those who dream of handing over the wealth of the region in a renewed
feast of exchange of "democracy" for oil, gas, biodiversity, water
and other resources that belong to us.

It hasn't been possible to
dissuade us with fear or with propaganda, so it is necessary to initiate a real
counter-offensive against the rebelliousness, and nothing is better for this than
a military presence. In addition to Honduras, there is the situation in

From Dissuasion to Action

The military occupation of
Latin America by the United States has been historically linked to the
objective of protecting what the Monroe doctrine called "America for the
Americans," the territorial space that extends from Mexico to Argentina. This
occupation has allowed it to guard the principal sources of raw materials and
guarantee the operations of the US businesses in the region. In the last three
decades, the war against drugs and the war against terrorism have been added as
arguments in order to advance the counter-insurgency work that allows political
control. In agreements between governments, the US military has been allowed to
have a presence on military bases in the Latin American nations, and in perfect
coincidence, each time that a military coup took place in the region, it always
had the open or veiled support of that opportune guest. The constitutional and
political changes that have taken place in Latin America limit the relationship
between the regional military forces and the US forces, based on the destabilizing
experience of military interference. The new constitutions of Venezuela,
Ecuador, and Bolivia prohibit foreign military bases on national territory and
reduce military relations to technical and security cooperation directed by the

Colombia: Guardian of Subordination

The Latin American
integration consolidated by political integration has shown itself to be
successful in the face of the coup d'état in Honduras. For the first time,
regional organisations articulated themselves in solidarity with a country
violated by a military coup, obliging a worldwide reaction that condemned the
military and institutional violence. ALBA showed its negotiating power and its capacity
to initiate regional action. The hazard lights of the empire came on
immediately. It appeared insufficient to discipline Central America; the major
political problems are in the South. Hugo Chávez, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales,
Cristina Kirchner, Fernando Lugo, all have one referent: Fidel Castro. The
empire relies upon a disciple disposed to unconditional collaboration in the
South: Álvaro Uribe. His contribution is exchanged for more Plan Colombia and a
United States-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

The closing of the military
bases in Panama and Ecuador is compensated by new bases in Colombia. They are
the five principal bases of the Air Force and the Navy in the country: Apiay,
Malambo, Palanquero, Cartagena and Bahía de Málaga, military installations
strategically located on the borders of Venezuela and Ecuador, with strategic coverage
of the Andean and Caribbean fronts.

Venezuela Revises Relations
with Colombia

Without a doubt the
continental leadership of Venezuela in the process of regional integration, and
the impetus that President Chávez gives to it, constitutes one of the
objectives of control by North American interests. Venezuela considers the
increase of the United States military presence in Colombia to be a threat to
its security as it tries to make the U.S.'s geopolitical vision prevail,
therefore Venezuela has proposed the evaluation of relations with Colombia.

The traditional assessment
of bilateral relations that favours commercial relations over political
relations has criticised this presidential decision. Nevertheless, it is good
to establish that commercial relations will never be possible without the
political convergence of the States that define the conditions of those

Who Benefits from the
Bilateral Relations between Venezuela and Colombia?

At the start of the 1990's,
Colombia and Venezuela established a free trade zone in the framework of the
Andean Community of Nations (CAN). Bilateral trade has developed since the
creation of the free trade zone. Venezuela registered consecutive surpluses in
its trade with Colombia from the year 1993 until 1998. From this year until
2003, the countries alternated having the trade surplus. In the most recent period
from 2004 to 2008, the bi-national trade balance was a great deficit for
Venezuela due to the significant increase in imports, while exports to Colombia

Colombia has been ranked
between first and second as the destination of Venezuela's non-oil exports. The
products sold to the neighbouring country are iron and steel products, aluminum
and chemical substances. There has been a greater concentration in a few
products since 2004.

With regard to imports, a
strong increase was observed in imports coming from Colombia since 2004. The
neighbouring country has occupied second place as a supplier of foreign goods
in the majority of the years since the free trade agreement was passed, and it
has been particularly important in the supply of agricultural goods and semi-manufactured
goods, categories that represent 78.4% of the total supplied to Venezuela. The
most relevant agricultural and agro-industrial items were beef, cocoa, chocolate,
confectionary products and unprocessed milk. With regard to semi-manufactured
goods, 24.6% of the total imported by the country was of Colombian origin,
highlighting textile goods such as dress garments, fabrics, leather and spun
articles, knitted goods, as well as footwear, soaps and detergents, plastics,
chemical substances, among others.

Relevant characteristics of
bilateral trade between Venezuela and Colombia that could be highlighted are:

  • An
    important tendency toward a deficit trade balance for Venezuela

  • A
    high concentration in a few export products from Venezuela

  • An
    accelerated increase of Colombian imports

  • Recurrent
    surpluses in the Colombian trade balance

  • An
    expansion of the exportable supply from Colombia to Venezuela

Seeing the balance of the
trade relations, it is evident that it clearly benefits Colombia. This is
demonstrated in a favourable balance of trade of $US 5.8 billion in the year

When asked about the
consequences of dispensing with this volume of trade and the possibility of substitution,
one could affirm, without rejecting the inconvenience involved in the substitution
of a close provider with transport facilities and traditional trade, that it is
no less important to evaluate the political significance of the bilateral
relationship and the consequences that are derived from it.

The success of the
Bolivarian government is sustained by the strategic positioning of the
political over the economic. If we postulate trade diversification and an
opening to new business partners and markets, and the political situation
demands it, Colombia should be substituted as a trade partner.

by Sean Seymour-Jones for Venezuelanalysis.com