Venezuela and Colombia reestablished relations this Monday, August 29, after years of hostilities between the neighboring countries. With the arrival of the Venezuelan and Colombian ambassadors in Bogotá and Caracas, respectively.
For almost four years, the government of the now former President Iván Duque became the most aggressive adversary that Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro had to face.
Duque led the region in imposing a tough diplomatic and political siege on Venezuela. Under his leadership, the former Colombian president took Nicolás Maduro to the International Criminal Court, while most of the countries in the region imposed sanctions against the Caracas leadership.
The government of Duque, which lasted from 2018 until August of this year, was one of the first to call the Venezuelan regime a dictatorship and accused it of violating human rights. As a result, Duque supported all initiatives that sought to pressure Maduro to leave power.
Following the victory of left-wing extremist Gustavo Petro in the June 19 elections, Colombia’s policy towards Venezuela took a 180-degree turn.
This Monday, the ambassador appointed by Gustavo Petro in Venezuela, Armando Benedetti, who is one of the Colombian president’s great allies, arrived in Caracas. Meanwhile, his Venezuelan counterpart, former foreign minister and former Venezuelan ambassador to China, Felix Plasencia, landed in Bogotá.
“As instructed by our President Nicolás Maduro, we have arrived in the Republic of Colombia to present our credentials to the Government of this nation. We are eager to advance in the diplomacy of peace,” Plasencia said upon his arrival in Bogotá.
Félix Plasencia ( @plasenciafelixr ) Embajador de Venezuela en Colombia, ya se encuentra en Bogotá para entrega de cartas credenciales ante el Gobierno colombiano.
🎥: @PrensaLatina_cu pic.twitter.com/JHweiaiyUO
— Cancillería Colombia (@CancilleriaCol) August 29, 2022
Petro’s ambassador, Armando Benedetti, said shortly before traveling to Caracas: “Relations with Venezuela should never have been broken. We are brothers. An imaginary line cannot separate us. We are going to reestablish relations with Venezuela. We are going to reestablish trade.”
Since before winning the elections, Gustavo Petro insisted on the need to reestablish relations with Venezuela, due to the historical, political, and economic closeness between the two countries. However, Petro’s insistence generates more concerns than tranquility
“The restoration of relations is terrible news for democrats, for lovers of freedom. It is terrible news,” insists the renowned Colombian academic from the EAFIT University of Medellín, Luis Guillermo Velez.
According to professor Vélez, “Maduro benefits from the restoration of relations.”
“All the international isolation that had been achieved with Duque’s diplomatic efforts is falling to the ground. Having a democratic ally in Colombia was fundamental for the Venezuelan opposition. An ally of Maduro in Bogotá greatly weakens the Venezuelan opposition. This strengthens Maduro enormously,” Luis Guillermo Vélez told El American.
On the night of August 29, dictator Nicolás Maduro received Ambassador Armando Benedetti at the Miraflores Presidential Palace, who handed over his credentials to formalize his position.
Through a great hug and a smile, Maduro formalized the rupture of a doctrine that until now had isolated him from a large part of the hemisphere.
Former President Duque had become a headache for the socialist leadership in Caracas. When Petro won, several Chavista leaders celebrated, largely because the leftist’s victory represented the end of Duque’s policies.
“The departure of Duque from the Colombian presidency also means the departure of organized crime. Drug trafficking is leaving, paramilitarism directed from there is leaving,” said Chavismo’s number two, Diosdado Cabello, who was accused of drug trafficking by the United States.
“A new opportunity is opening up for Colombians to achieve peace,” Cabello said in early August.
Iván Duque kept a firm stance against Maduro until the last day of his administration. Shortly before Petro was sworn in, then President Duque stated that Nicolás Maduro would not attend the inauguration.
“As long as I am president of the republic, Nicolás Maduro will not enter Colombian territory. If the next president wants to have him here in Colombia, he will be able to do so once he is sworn in as president,” Duque said in an interview with SEMANA magazine.
Since the beginning of 2019, the Colombian government did not recognize Maduro as head of state of Venezuela. Instead, and after an effort by several nations led by the United States, Colombia went on to recognize Juan Guaidó as president. Needless to say, the reestablishment of relations between Colombia and Venezuela is also terrible news for Juan Guaidó, who is completely marginalized and loses what was a key ally.
For Carlos Chacón, director of the Institute of Political Science of Bogotá, the reestablishment of relations leaves more questions than certainties. In his opinion, one of the greatest challenges is in the area of security.
“We must not forget that since the Chavez era, Venezuela has been a sanctuary for Colombian criminal groups, such as the guerrillas. Venezuela is currently a theater of criminal operations,” Chacón told El American.
“It sounds very flamboyant to talk about reestablishing relations, but there is a minimum infrastructure that is required,” Chacón said, referring to the evident inequality between Colombia and Venezuela, not only in the economic aspect, but in the democratic and social aspects too.
“We don’t know how the issue of drug trafficking that operates on both sides of the border is going to be resolved. What is going to happen with our military forces in the face of Venezuela’s highly criminalized military forces?” Chacón asks.
Last August 12, Colombia was not present at the session of the Organization of American States (OAS), in which human rights violations by the Nicaraguan dictatorship of Daniel Ortega were condemned. A few days ago, several media reported that the Colombian ambassador was not present by order of Petro’s designated foreign minister, Álvaro Leyva. This episode is already showing a drastic change in what has been Colombia’s foreign policy approach for decades.
Daniel Ortega is one of the great allies of Nicolás Maduro and the dictatorship of Cuba. He has recently been accused of human rights violations, persecution of dissidents, and the Catholic Church. In this matter, Colombia, which has almost always been in coordination with the United States and the countries that oppose Castroism in the region, sided with the Nicaraguan dictator.
“We saw what happened with the participation of the Colombian delegation to the OAS last week,” Chacón told El American, “this leaves a lot of doubts.”
“Is Colombia going to be indulgent and permissive with the Maduro regime and human rights violations? Is there simply going to be appeasement? Are we going to look the other way? Are we going to move completely away from international law to become silent accomplices of authoritarian regimes?”, are questions asked by the director of the Institute of Political Science of Bogotá.
ÚLTIMA HORA | Se restablecen las relaciones bilaterales Venezuela-Colombia: Las risas, el apretón de manos y los abrazos entre el embajador Armando Benedetti con Nicolás Maduro y Cilia Flores en Miraflores https://t.co/hBCJ7B3lBT pic.twitter.com/a9ycwzAxom
— AlbertoRodNews (@AlbertoRodNews) August 29, 2022
Orlando Avendaño is the co-editor-in-chief of El American. He is a Venezuelan journalist and has studies in the History of Venezuela. He is the author of the book Days of submission // Orlando Avendaño es el co-editor en Jefe de El American. Es periodista venezolano y cuenta con estudios en Historia de Venezuela. Es autor del libro Días de sumisión.