Venezuela’s Maduro Offers to Renew Colombia Ties amid Extradition Dispute

Colombia’s Duque asked Guaido to extradite a fugitive in the Maduro government’s custody.

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Maduro dismissed as “ridiculous” Duque’s decision to channel his extradition request to Juan Guaido. (Semana)
Maduro dismissed as “ridiculous” Duque’s decision to channel his extradition request to Juan Guaido. (Semana)
By Lucas Koerner
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Santiago de Chile, January 30, 2020 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has offered to reestablish diplomatic relations with Colombia.

“I am willing to reestablish consular relations with the Colombian government so that all of these issues can be addressed via the consuls,” he stated during a televised event in western Caracas on Wednesday.

Maduro made the remarks in response to recent request by Colombian President Ivan Duque for the extradition of a fugitive Colombian national currently in custody in Venezuela.

On Monday, Venezuelan authorities detained former Colombian congresswoman Aida Merlano in the western state of Zulia. Merlano was convicted of corruption and vote-buying and sentenced to 15 years by the Colombian Supreme Court. She managed to escape and made her way across the border.

Duque faced criticism after his government opted to channel its extradition request not to the Maduro government – which has Merlano in custody –, but to opposition leader Juan Guaido.

“When the appropriate judge requests the extradition of Ms. Aida Merlano, the national government will send the request to the legitimate government of Venezuela headed by Juan Guaido,” Colombia’s Justice Ministry said in a tweet Tuesday.

Guaido proclaimed himself “interim president” in January 2019 with the backing of Washington, Bogotá, and other right-wing regional governments. He has repeatedly attempted to oust Maduro by force and commands no institutional authority in Venezuelan territory.

Maduro had previously dismissed Duque’s announcement as “ridiculous,” revealing that Venezuelan authorities had captured “over 30” individuals wanted in Colombia but no extraditions have been carried out because “there is no one to receive them in Colombia.”

Caracas broke off diplomatic relations with Bogota in February 2019 after the Duque government permitted the Venezuelan opposition to use Colombian territory as a staging ground for a failed effort to force US-supplied “humanitarian aid” across Venezuela’s western border.

While border crossings were re-opened after a few months, tensions along the 2,219 kilometer frontier have remained high, with both governments accusing each other of violating territorial sovereignty.

More recently on January 19, Guaido again crossed over into Colombia in defiance of a travel ban, taking part in a US-led counter-terrorism summit alongside Duque and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Bogota.

The opposition politician has subsequently embarked on an international tour aimed at drumming up support for continued international efforts against the Venezuelan government.

Last week, Guaido visited the United Kingdom, France, and Spain, in addition to attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. On Monday, he was received in Ottawa by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau whose government vowed to engage with Cuba in order to achieve a “solution.”

Guaido is set to conclude his tour with a rally in Miami, Florida on Saturday. Spokespeople for the opposition leader have played down the possibility of a meeting with US Donald Trump, whom Guaido had previously hoped to meet at Davos.