How are Colombia and Venezuela preparing for the reopening of the border? 1:50 (CNN Spanish) – Colombia and Venezuela are preparing for the commercial reopening of the common border that was closed for seven years during the government of President Iván Duque. With the arrival of a new administration in Colombia, that of Gustavo Petro, it is expected that a progressive and safe reopening process will begin to resume issues ranging from the air connection, through the activation of land cargo transport to commercial and diplomatic relations. . The date for a new stage has arrived: on September 26, a symbolic event will be held at the Simón Bolívar International Bridge, the same place through which thousands of Colombians, Venezuelans and Colombo-Venezuelans passed, escaping a crisis that has spread for several years. years. But a new stage is expected to begin. The reopening of the borders is one of the main bets of the Petro government, who has insisted that resolving this is to restore “brotherly relations” between the two countries. On September 26 we will open the border between Colombia and Venezuela. As a first step, the air connection and cargo transport between our countries will be resumed. We confirm the Government’s commitment to restore brotherly relations. — Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) September 9, 2022 Meanwhile, although the presence of Maduro in the acts of the 26th has yet to be confirmed, the truth is that the questioned president of Venezuela has celebrated the initiative of the Government of Colombia and has indicated that the reopening of borders must be “total, absolute and free”. And although there is talk of a commercial exchange, this integration will benefit the citizens of both countries. “We are not just talking about trade, or trade negotiations, or the exchange of some products for others. What we are talking about is a real integration as we already had it,” said the Colombian Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Germán Umaña Mendoza, during a business meeting in Cúcuta, Norte de Santander, this week. Colombia and Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations in 2019 and resumed in August 2022 with the start of the Petro government A process of “gradual implementation” What is expected from this moment is that, gradually, cargo transport and direct flights between the two countries. But this is going to take some time. It is not expected to see the normal operation of the borders as it was before the crisis, according to the Minister of Transport of Colombia, Germán Reyes. “We are in a process of a gradual implementation,” he said Reyes to journalists in Caracas at the beginning of the week: “This must be done very carefully to avoid setbacks, but the most important thing is that on the 26th of this month the brotherhood will begin again between our borderless countries”. This gradual process will restore trust between the parties. “We are thinking that there is going to be a growing cargo movement, it is going to be gradual, we may be passing few vehicles with import and export cargo this Monday (September 26), but that is precisely what leads to regain confidence and that the actors begin to generate export and import movement,” Luis Felipe Fuentes, director of Foreign Trade of the Colombian Ministry of Industry and Commerce, told journalists at the San Antonio de Táchira customs office, quoted by Reuters. What will happen with direct flights between Colombia and Venezuela One thing that is certain is that direct flights between Colombia and Venezuela will resume in the coming days. The Colombian airline Wingo announced that it will make its first flight connecting Bogotá and Caracas on October 4. It will be the first to link the two capitals since 2020, when direct flights were suspended due to the covid-19 pandemic. And although the Governments of Colombia and Venezuela announced in previous days that the state-owned Conviasa would make the first charter flight from Caracas to Bogotá on December 26, the flight was on hold until this Friday afternoon, as a local media report reported That company is part of the sanctions list of the US Office of Foreign Assets Control, OFAC, so it will not be able to reach Bogotá. Transportation ministry sources told CNN they are reviewing the issue and anything could change between now and Monday. At the moment frequencies of between two and four times a week are expected, to later incorporate more days as well as destinations in Venezuela such as Maracaibo, Valencia, Isla Margarita and Barcelona, said Reyes. Other airlines such as Avianca are taking steps to resume their direct flights between the two countries. Flights are an important part of this reopening of borders. The air crisis in Venezuela began to intensify in 2014 when more than a dozen airlines began to suspend their operations in the country after they were prohibited from repatriating their income of more than US $ 3,000 million due to the exchange control imposed by the Government of Venezuela. Ripe. Currently there are only seven international airlines operating in Venezuela, a figure that represents 50% of its operations compared to the time before the pandemic, according to the Venezuelan Airline Association. But in 2013, when air traffic was operating normally, there were 32 airlines operating in the country. The reopening of international bridges Two of the three international bridges that join the two countries are expected to open to reactivate binational trade: the Simón Bolívar International Bridge and the Francisco de Paula Santander International Bridge. “The Francisco de Paula Santander bridge, which is not going to start operating immediately, will be opened in a three-month process so that the bridge can be examined and put into operation,” Reyes said. The authorities of both countries agreed that in a period of approximately two months the third crossing point would be enabled: the Tienditas Bridge, through which they hope to order the flow of truck loads. Later, it is estimated that the public transport system and the exchange and crossing of private vehicles between the border cities will be launched, Reuters reported, citing Víctor Bautista, border secretary of the government of the department of Norte de Santander. In addition, it has been established, according to the Minister of Transport, that the pedestrian crossing be opened during the day over the Simón Bolívar bridges and the Santander bridge in Urueña and that at night, between 7:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., this step is enabled for cargo transportation, Reyes told reporters in Caracas last Monday. “We have already reached some basic rules in what has to do with cargo transport and that is that authorized companies will be able to reach a point on the border or customs, where the cargo will be transshipped, so that one side to the other country, we will start in this way while we agree on some conditions so that they can circulate to both sides of the country,” said the Colombian Minister of Transportation. Transfers will also apply to passenger transport: arriving at a point and transferring from the other country to the interior. The border points at the fluvial points of Puerto Inírida and Puerto Carreño in western Colombia will also be reviewed. — With information from Osmary Hernández from Caracas, Germán Padinger from Buenos Aires and Reuters.
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