Caracas, August 2nd 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – In a meeting held yesterday in Cartagena, Colombia, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos forged agreements on several topics relating to finance, energy, and social programs.
One of the key agreements established a new exchange rate between the countries for trade and remittances. The exchange rate, which will be set by the Venezuelan government and allows each country to trade using its own currency, is designed to more easily facilitate payments between importers and exporters and the two governments.
Both presidents expressed concern about increasing contraband sales along the border between the two countries. Various groups routinely smuggle goods subsidized by the Venezuelan government, including basic food items and gasoline, across the border to sell at inflated prices, contributing to shortages in Venezuela and harming producers in Colombia.
“It’s an issue that is seriously affecting both Venezuelans and Colombians,” Santos said after the meeting. Maduro added that the heads of state had created “a meticulously-detailed shock plan to address the structures that permit contraband and the mafias that operate within them.”
One proposal considered, proposed by Táchira state governor José Vielma Mora, would increase the number of gas stations along the border to amplify formal sales.
Other agreements between the countries included a 10 percent discount on the shipment of Colombian natural gas to Venezuela, where it is primarily utilized in oil camps near the city of Maracaibo, and the provision of Venezuelan food items to the Wayúu indigenous community, located on the border of Venezuela and Colombia.
“This is a great help from President Maduro for these 140,000 indigenous Wayuu, and on behalf of them and of all Colombians I want to thank him,” Santos said.
Santos also thanked Maduro for his support of the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), who have been in an armed conflict for the past half century.
“I would say that we are entering the definitive phase, the final phase [of the process], and that’s precisely when we need the most support and momentum,” Santos said.
“We must not let this opportunity for peace escape us,” Maduro added. “We must approach it intelligently and with patience.”
Near the location of the meeting in Cartagena, a small group of citizens, most belonging to former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe’s right-wing Democratic Center party, protested Maduro’s visit.