By Sergio Rodriguez Gelfenstein *
Already the result of the first electoral round in the Colombian presidential elections held on May 29, revealed a clear perspective on the future of that country’s relationship with Venezuela and established the certainty that it would have a transcendent change with respect to of what happened in the most recent past. The two candidates who would have to contend in the second round, Gustavo Petro and Rodolfo Hernández, stated with certainty their will that, if they were elected to the highest magistracy in the country, they would immediately focus on reestablishing ties with their neighbor to the east.
Caracas expressed its satisfaction at verifying that a new era would bein in bilateral relations as of August, but kept a discreet distance from favoring one or another candidate, paving the way for regardless of who the new president was, the dealings with the new government will be developed with the greatest impetus in favor of the interests of both peoples.
Petro’s victory in the final second round on June 19 cleared up any doubts about the direction and pace of the link between the two countries. It is no secret to anyone that, in political terms – and despite the differences – Petro is much closer to Caracas than Hernández. His past militancy in the April 19 Movement (M-19), an organization of clear Bolivarian affiliation, registers an identity with the orientation of the political process in Venezuela from its own roots.
Thus, from the very electoral victory of the Human Colombia led by Petro, the two parties began to study the forms and content that relations would acquire and devoted themselves to the search for methods and instruments to facilitate the path to travel towards normalization. of bilateral ties. Just three days after his electoral victory and following a phone call with President Nicolás Maduro, Petro made public their willingness to restore normalcy at the borders.
In turn, President Maduro announced that he had spoken with the elected president of Colombia and on behalf of the Venezuelan people, he congratulated him on his victory. They also discussed peace and a prosperous future for both peoples.
Meetings at the border
This talk set the tone to begin to clear the obstacles that would allow the regularization of the links. In this way, on July 4 in the Venezuelan border city of San Cristóbal, businessmen from both countries met in an event called “Border Agreement” in order to prepare the ground for its already imminent reopening, which had been restricted since 2015 and completely closed as of 2019. On the Venezuelan side, the governor of the state of Táchira, Freddy Bernal participated, acted as host, and on the Colombian side, Rubén Zamora and Wilfredo Cañizales, representatives of the Alianza Histórico coalition, the political group of the new Colombian president. Likewise, a “high-level commission” made up of senators, politicians and union representatives participated in the activity.
Exactly one month later, on August 4, a similar event was held in the department of La Guajira, in which businessmen from Colombia and Venezuela met to establish conditions within the framework of the productive development that is glimpsed by the companies that they will participate in the commercial exchange that will take place after the reopening of the borders.
The meeting took place at the Paraguachón Land Migration Control post, in La Guajira, a border area with the state of Zulia (Venezuela). The Venezuelan businessmen were represented by Rafael Bula Blanco, who, regarding the issue stated that: “our basic proposal is complementarity, use the advantages to promote the companies of both countries and promote imports to the Caribbean integrating the Wayuu population”. Attending the meeting for Colombia was Alfredo Saade, Border Advisor to President Petro, who, among other things, reiterated that “one of the greatest objectives of the new government is to reestablish relations with the neighboring country to obtain positive economic indices in the Product Gross Domestic (GDP)”.
Within this framework of binational approaches, on July 28, Bernal, accompanied by Foreign Minister Carlos Farías, received the new Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, Álvaro Leyva Durán, in San Cristóbal.
Restoring relations betwen the armed forces
On August 9, a new item was added to the agenda when the Venezuelan Defense Minister, Vladimir Padrino, reported that he had “received instructions from President Nicolás Maduro to establish immediate contact with the Colombian Defense Minister (Iván Velásquez ) to restore our military relations.”
Both countries face as a challenge the common fight against paramilitarism and Colombian armed gangs of all kinds that operate on the border and enter the territory of Venezuela. Although since 2021 the Binational Interunion Council of the Norte de Santander-Táchira Border Axis was installed, cooperation in this area is essential for normal operation of the borders to materialize.
Continuing with the accelerated course of actions, in the legislative field, on August 10, the Colombian Senate approved some policies in pursuit of reestablishing relations with Venezuela in various sectors. The parliamentarians proposed to address the border issue and security issues in the 2,219 kilometers of border shared by both countries.
Assuming that the Monómeros issue is one of the most thorny on the road to reestablishing relations, President Petro pointed out that this is one of the most complex issues, because the company is bankrupt and “it is necessary to see technically how it can be restarted, analyzing the legal forms and the sanction system that is still in force”.
In this context, on August 12, Venezuela began actions to regain control of this company by appointing a new Board of Directors, a measure that seeks to put an end to its irregular management. To do this, on Monday, August 8, the Venezuelan company Pequiven filed a document with the Barranquilla Chamber of Commerce, signed by its president Pedro Rafael Tellechea Ruiz with the list of names of the Venezuelan team that seeks to assume legal control of Monómeros, action which coincides with the recent decision of the Superintendence of Companies of Colombia – the government body in charge of auditing companies in that country – to eliminate the maximum degree of supervision that it maintained in Monómeros since September 2021.
Finally, as the culmination of this normalization process, on August 12, President Maduro appointed Félix Plasencia as ambassador to Colombia while his trans-Andean colleague did the same by appointing Armando Benedetti to take charge of the Colombian representation in Caracas.
In this way, the route for the reestablishment of bilateral ties was clearly traced, leaving behind four years of darkness marked by the terrorist government of Iván Duque.
* Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein is a Venezuelan international relations expert, who was previously Director of the International Relations of the Presidency of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, his country’s ambassador to Nicaragua and an advisor for international politics for TELESUR. Gelfenstein has written numerous books, among them “China in the XXI Century – the awakening of a giant” which has been published in several Latin American countries.