Colombia awaits full reopening of border with Venezuela

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By Jorge Gil Angel |

Simón Bolívar Bridge, (EFE).- The governments of Colombia and Venezuela finalized this Sunday the details of the total reopening of their border crossings which have been closed to car traffic for seven long years of estrangement which will end this Monday.

Tomorrow’s symbolic act will take place at the Simón Bolívar International Bridge, the main crossing between the two countries and where thousands of people cross on foot every day, although there is still not much clarity on what will now be daily traffic. .

Precisely the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism of Colombia, Germán Umaña, assured today that tomorrow, during the opening, he will reveal the details of how the passage of heavy goods through the various border crossings will work .

“It is the reopening after seven years of intermittent or permanent border closures, where the people of Táchira (Venezuela) and the people of Norte de Santander (Colombia) are going to have a wonderful reunion,” said Umaña, who met today local authorities to oversee the preparations.

Venezuelan migrants cross the border between Venezuela and Colombia, on the Simón Bolívar International Bridge. EFE/Carlos Ortega

The event has lost its luster because so far neither the president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, nor that of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, have confirmed their participation and, perhaps, they will not.

The Colombian government has confirmed the presence of the Minister of Commerce; that of Transport, Guillermo Reyes, and that of External Relations, Álvaro Leyva, as well as the local authorities, but not President Petro.

On the Venezuelan side, there is still no confirmation of who will be there, although several ministers have visited the border in recent days.

A member of Migración Colombia checks the documents of a Venezuelan migrant as he enters Colombia through Cúcuta. EFE/Carlos Ortega

Besides reactivating trade between the two countries, another purpose of the reopening of the border is the opportunity to “forever close the trails”, the illegal marches used by citizens of both countries as an alternative to closing pedestrian crossings. , according to Umana

“In addition to the fact that diplomatic relations with Venezuela have already been restored, the ambassadors (from Colombia, Armando) Benedetti and (from Venezuela, Félix) Plasencia are already fully active, we are working on the relevant part to reactivate the consulates, ” Express.

First flight from Caracas to Bogota

On the other hand, Ambassador Benedetti confirmed on Saturday that tomorrow the Venezuelan airline Turpial Airlines will operate the first flight between Caracas and Bogotá after receiving approval from the Colombian authorities.

“Venezuelan airline Turpial Airlines has just received permission from @AerocivilCol (Civil Aeronautics) to land in Bogotá next Monday, September 26, from Caracas. The first of 27 flights scheduled until December 30. Longer!” , Benedetti said on Twitter.

This after Benedetti himself assured this week that Conviasa, which was going to operate this first flight, can no longer do so because “it is sanctioned on the Clinton list”, the US government’s blacklist of companies and individuals linked to the drug traffic.

A new hope

Border residents are impatiently awaiting the normalization of migratory traffic at the various border crossings. EFE/Carlos Ortega

The reopening has given renewed hope to the border population, who hope that the normalization of relations will bring new life to a region that has been hit by the prolonged closure.

“This progress in rebuilding commercial relations is very important for both countries, for both territories,” said the governor of the department of Norte de Santander, Silvano Serrano, who considered it a fact that “men and women of the frontier” waited for seven years.

However, Serrano is aware that tomorrow a “gradual process” will begin to “be able to achieve normality in this relationship (in which) this rupture, this closure should not have happened”.

Bilateral trade, despite the ups and downs of the past decades, reached a record $7.2 billion in 2008, but the deterioration of the relationship caused trade figures to drop by more than 90%.

In 2013, the year Maduro came to power as Hugo Chávez’s successor, trade fell to $1,846 million, hit a low in 2017 when it fell to $116.4 million. dollars and last year to 268.6 million dollars, according to the national administration. Department of Statistics (DANE).

180 degree turn

The pedestrian crossing over the Simón Bolívar and over the Francisco de Paula Santander International Bridge, which will also be reopened tomorrow, maintains the vitality that characterizes it. Most of those passing through are commuters, usually people who live in Venezuela and travel to Cúcuta to seek food and basic necessities.

In the Simón Bolívar, for example, everything is already arranged for trucks to pass, even in recent days officials in both countries have painted poles and fences that were in poor condition due to their disuse.

Sin embargo, el puente de Tienditas, que tiene la infraestructura más moderna y es el más amplio, no será habilitado aún porque todavía está blocado por contenedores que puso el Gobierno venezolano en 2019 cuando el opositor Juan Guaidó trató de ingresar al país, sin éxito , humanitarian aid.

The Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism of Colombia, Germán Umaña (c) and his counterpart of Transport, Guillermo Reyes (cd) visit the border between Colombia and Venezuela, at the Simón Bolívar international bridge. EFE/Carlos Ortega

The reopening will begin at 9:00 a.m. (2:00 p.m. GMT) and, according to Minister Umaña, “the protocol acts will take place in which we and the Venezuelan authorities will be, we will give each other the relevant salute (…) the anthems of our and So the semi-trailers (trucks), which are programmed so that the border will never be closed again, will pass.

Whatever happens, the border population looks forward to a full reopening, which also sets the tone for a new bilateral relationship after years of political and ideological tensions.

Web edition: Jorge Rincon

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