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Electoral result in Colombia will also change the relationship with Venezuela

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Whoever wins this Sunday’s presidential election in Colombia relations with Venezuelabroken three years ago, will also feel the change due to the intention of both candidates to get them out of limbo, starting with the reopening of the border.

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The two countries share a 2,219-kilometer border closed to the passage of vehicles since August 2015 by order of the illegitimate Venezuelan president, Nicholas Madurowhich later broke diplomatic relations with Colombia, on February 23, 2019, amid an escalation of tensions for the recognition of his Colombian counterpart, Ivan Duketo the opposition leader, Juan Guaidoas interim president.

However, both the leftist Gustavo Petroas the independent populist Rodolfo Hernandezwho will dispute the Colombian Presidency in the second round, have stated that, if they win, they will reopen the border.

“I have to tell you that Cúcuta cannot be a city, it cannot prosper, it cannot overcome problems without opening the borders,” Petro said a month ago during a visit to that city, while Hernández assured: “Winning the presidency of the Republic, the first ‘decree’ is to open that (the border)”.

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In an interview with Efe, Hernández also promised that “The same day” of his investiture will activate the protocol for the reestablishment of consular relations.

close up view

But beyond those speeches, a decision by Colombia in this regard will undoubtedly require a rapprochement with the Maduro government, which is not recognized by Duque.

“Naturally that also depends on the Venezuelan government, we have to see if it shows the willingness to do it. I think it will show it, but in any case you have to see that part “said former Colombian foreign minister Julio Londono Paredesdean of the Faculty of Political Science, Government and International Relations of the Universidad del Rosario.

Londono explains that, “outside the commercial and economic aspect”Colombia has “two and a half million Venezuelans here, an indefinite number of Colombians in Venezuelan territory and a conflictive and difficult border”so it is necessary to have at least one communication channel that currently does not exist.

The reopening of the border is a cry from social and economic sectors of the two countries that for seven years have suffered the hardships that the closure of the border crossings, especially the one that connects Cúcuta, in the Colombian department of Norte de Santander, with the Venezuelan state of Táchira, the most dynamic of all due to its intense commercial activity.

“I think we are coming to our senses, the two presidential candidates have mentioned the opening of the border”said the president Executive of the Colombo-Venezuelan Chamber, German Umanain a forum held on Monday in Cúcuta in which businessmen and academics from the two countries analyzed this possibility.

The safety factor

According to the experts, the two countries must also work to improve security in the area where the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN)dissidence of the FARC and criminal gangs such as the Colombian Los Rastrojos or the Venezuelan Tren de Aragua.

“There is a very strong advance of transnational gangs and groups outside the law”explained Francis Xavier Sanchezresearcher at Center for Border and Integration Studies of the Universidad de los Andes (Venezuela)who explained that to combat them successfully “coordination, cooperation and communication between authorities is needed” of the two countries.

The Duque government has refused any rapprochement with Venezuela on the grounds that the break in relations was a unilateral decision by Maduro and that it cannot be negotiated with a “dictatorship”.

Maduro, for his part, said that he hopes that with the next president there can be “peace and cooperation”.

For now, the distancing is such that in these elections, Colombians residing in Venezuela have had to move to the polling stations installed on this side of the border to be able to vote, since all the consulates have been closed for three years.

From Guaido to Maduro

The reopening of the border, if it happens, does not mean a normalization of relations because that would be a decision that requires a 180-degree turn in current foreign policy, in which Duque unsuccessfully led the “diplomatic fence” to Maduro.

“Establishing relations, even consular ones, necessarily implies recognition of the Maduro government as a legitimate government and we (Colombia) would have to leave aside the case of Guaidó, which has progressively weakened. That is a change that can bring some resistance in Colombia and some concern in the United States”explains the former chancellor.

Londoño adds that an express reestablishment of relations is not so simple because it is necessary to reactivate “all the organizations, all the elements, all the agreements that were in force between the two countries in the commercial, economic, political, etc. fields, and that have been finished” after the abandonment of recent years.

“I think that what should be done is to establish a commission, a contact group, and make a memorandum of understanding to point out some guidelines and steps that must be taken to reach the reestablishment of relations”Londono recommends.

Source: Gestion

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