Mérida, January 26, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)– The presidents of Venezuela and Colombia, Hugo Chavez and Alvaro Uribe, had their 13th meeting on Saturday in Cartegana, Colombia. They emphasized "complementary economic policies," or fulfilling each other's economic needs with their economic strengths.
The presidents and a range of ministers covered various political, economic and social issues, but stressed countering the financial crisis. Chavez announced at the press conference after the meeting that the two countries will create a bi-national economic commission, which would revise, strengthen, and create new means of interchange and help consolidate their economic relationship.
They also agreed to create a bi-national fund that would give micro-credits to small and medium industries in Colombia exporting to Venezuela and vice-versa. The leaders perceived such small-scale industry as most vulnerable in the current crisis. Both nations will contribute about $100 million, with the aim that the fund will stimulate production, employment, and commercial interchange.
Venezuela's contribution will come from the National Development Fund (Fonden) while Colombia's share will come from Colombia's foreign trade bank (Bancoldex), which receives its money from the Interamericano Bank, the Corporation Andina de Fomento and the World Bank.
Other mutually beneficial economic decisions included a fund for infrastructure works; roads, bridges, energy and water facilities in border areas and a study to prepare for a pilot project for having one common currency.
"We'd be able to use [the common currency] to pay for the trade we have in energy, fuel, and food. We could even limit it to some geographic areas. There are ideas, it will be our ministers who will come up with detailed plans when they meet in April in Caracas," Chavez said.
Commercial exchange between the two countries reached $7 billion in 2008, and Chavez suggested aiming for $10 billion in the short term.
Finally, Chavez and Uribe agreed to increase the quota of vehicles that Venezuela would allow from Colombia. Such vehicles would include trucks, public transport vehicles, and gas-based vehicles, "because we are working on expanding this system," Chavez explained.
Both countries named new ambassadors, with Gustavo Marquez representing Venezuela in Colombia and Maria Chiappe representing Colombia in Venezuela.
Marquez, who was minister for foreign trade and integration between 2005-2007 will succeed Pavel Rondon, who was withdrawn from his position in March 2008 after the Colombian military attacked the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Ecuador.
Chavez highlighted the need for peace, as "only in peace can you implement all the projects."
Chavez also denied recurring accusations that Venezuela is trying to destabilize Colombia by supporting leftist guerillas, saying, "If I were supporting any subversive movement [in Colombia], terrorist or violent, I would not be here. I love this land and want the same for her as for my country: peace, development, unity, and progress."
On the referendum to change the constitution to get rid of two-term limits for elected positions, Uribe said, "We deeply respect the democratic decisions of our brother people of Venezuela regarding the topic of the constitutional amendment."