Monday, September 25, 2023

Colombia and Venezuela reopen border crossing after 7 years

The reopening was a key campaign promise from the recently elected President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro. The Simon Bolivar international bridge had been closed for seven years.

QCOLOMBIA – Colombia and Venezuela on Monday, September 26, 2022, reopened their border after years of impasse.

The reopening was a key campaign promise of Colombian president Gustavo Petro, who assumed office last month. The two countries subsequently re-established diplomatic relations.

“This is a historic day for the country, for the region and for the Americas in general,” Petro said.

President of Colombia Gustavo Petro and Ministers at the reopening of the border between Colombia and Venezuela. Credit: Twitter/Gustavo Petro
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On foot, Petro crossed the Simon Bolivar international bridge, dividing the Venezuelan town of San Antonio from Colombia’s Cucuta and Villa del Rosario. Having crossed the border, he met with a Venezuelan delegation including Transport Minister Ramon Velasquez and Industry Minister Hipolito Abreu.

Petro and the Venezuelan delegation accompanied the first cargo truck to cross the border after the reopening.

“I want the first people who benefit to be those who live on either side of the border, those who risked (illegal crossings),” Petro said in later comments.

A truck with export cargo is seen during the commercial reopening of the border, in Cucuta, Colombia September 26, 2022. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez

“The result should be a qualitative jump in human rights all along the Colombian-Venezuelan border,” he said.

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Petro said that a second road bridge near Cucuta would open within weeks.

Why were border crossings closed to trade?

The Simon Bolivar bridge had officially been closed to trade for nearly seven years. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered border crossings closed in 2015 during what he described as a crackdown on smuggling.

Cargo transport had previously only been allowed through one northern crossing.

One of the first trucks to cross the border from Colombia to Venezuela. Credit: Twitter/Nicolas Maduro

In 2019, tensions between the two countries rose after the Colombian government attempted to deliver truckloads of aid to the Venezuelan opposition.

The border was then shut down for a year. It was then reopened to traffic by foot.

sdi/jsi (AP, dpa, Reuters, EFE)

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