Petro and Maduro announce the opening of the border and the reestablishment of flights between Colombia and Venezuela

The president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, in September 2022.
The president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, in September 2022.CHEPA BELTRAN / ZUMA PRESS / CONTACTOPHOTO

Gustavo Petro and Nicolás Maduro announced this Friday the reopening of the border and the reestablishment of flights between Bogotá and Caracas by the end of this month. Colombia and Venezuela will once again be connected by land and by air after three years of isolation. “We confirm the government’s commitment to reestablish brotherly relations,” the Colombian president said on Twitter.

Maduro had advanced minutes before: “The exchange and cooperation between our peoples restart on the right foot.” The Venezuelan Presidentor first made contact with Petro three months ago, when he was still a candidate for the elections. He was the favourite, even though in the end he won by a very narrow margin. They were the first steps to establish a new relationship, non-existent since 2019, when the previous president, Iván Duque, recognized the opposition Juan Guaidó as the alternative president of Venezuela. Maduro expelled all diplomats and closed the borders between the two countries.

The old grudges are left behind. The Colombian ambassador in Caracas, Armando Benedetti, has announced that five airlines will cover the Bogotá-Caracas route from September 26, the same date the border will open. They are Avianca, Latam, Ultra, Wingo and Avior. Laser Airlines is still under review. Wingo will also fly between Bogotá and Valencia, known as the industrial capital of Venezuela. Without a doubt, this announcement will encourage activity at the Venezuelan Maiquetía airport, a gigantic complex that at this moment looks almost deserted, with hardly any activity.

The Petro’s outstretched hand towards the Chavista regime It is the beginning of the reopening to the world of Venezuela. Added to this are the rapprochements that the United States has made with Caracas in the midst of the energy crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The president of Colombia, like the rest of the candidates who participated in the Colombian elections, considers that there was no benefit in having broken relations with Venezuela, a brother country. The long border between the two is full of businesses and commercial exchanges that these years have been frozen and has led to an increase in crime and smuggling.

The way of isolating Maduro to cause his fall has been a failure, believes the new Colombian diplomacy. The thesis that the only way to unravel the political, economic and social crisis in Venezuela is through negotiation with Chavismo wins in the international arena. Thus, work is being done so that the negotiations between the Venezuelan government and the opposition are reactivated in Mexico and conclude in the organization of the fairest possible elections in 2024, when according to the law one must go to the polls. Some sectors consider that in this time that remains, a critical voice could arise within Chavismo that tries to question the absolute power that Maduro holds right now. Guaidó himself has already announced that he will stand for those elections, which many distrust: they do not believe that Chavismo is going to abandon power of its own accord.

The Petro’s primary focus to Venezuela is commercial. The president has said that in no case will he extradite the Venezuelan refugees residing in his country, who fled from Chavismo in the last decade. Of course, Colombia is studying withdrawing the complaint filed by the Duque government against Maduro in the International Criminal Court for the students killed during a cycle of protests. In addition, Venezuela, which is going through a very serious economic crisis, has put on the table in the negotiations that Colombia buy gas from it as soon as possible.

Petro’s interest is also national. The ELN, the guerrilla with whom he wishes to negotiate a peace agreement, operates in Venezuela and has a close relationship with Chavismo. The president did not initially want to involve Maduro in this matter, but without him the process will hardly go ahead. The first step has been taken: there will be flights between Bogotá and Caracas and it will be possible to travel by road. Colombia and Venezuela are once again neighboring countries.

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