On the border between Colombia and Venezuela, enthusiasm is in the air for the announced reopening of the crossings between the department of Norte de Santander and the Venezuelan state of Táchirawhich the inhabitants of the area see as a new beginning of the bilateral relationship.
On the Simón Bolívar international bridge, the main of the four that connect the two countries in the Cúcuta area, Colombian workers wash with soap and water the exterior of the offices of the Directorate of National Taxes and Customs (DIAN), while a mason repairs and paints the internal walls so that they are like new when normality returns.
The works also include the restoration of electrical networks in order to prepare the facilities for when the border reopening promised by the new Colombian president, Gustavo Petro, materializes.
This border crossing was in the past the most dynamic in the country due to its intense commercial activity, but it has been closed to vehicles for seven years, by order of the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, so any movement for the announced normalization excites those who follow walking through the area.
"We are living poorly on the border, we are starving and with the little we do selling little things we manage to survive. If they open the border it would be a favorable change for everyone, the closure left us very affected"Ernesto Oliveros, a water and soft drink vendor in La Parada, a Colombian village located in front of the Venezuelan city of San Antonio del Táchira, tells Efe.
Venezuelans continue to arrive daily at La Parada, which is part of Villa del Rosario, in the metropolitan area of Cúcuta, capital of Norte de Santander, carrying or dragging suitcases with groceries and other products bought from the Colombian side, but they are no longer the crowds of the years before the pandemic, when more than 35,000 Venezuelans passed through daily, but rather few.
PREPARING THE GROUND
Next week, August 19, will mark seven years since the border closure ordered by Maduro, who later hardened his stance with Colombia by breaking off diplomatic relations on February 23, 2019, in response to the support that the then Colombian president, Iván Duque, gave the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
This turbulent relationship between the two countries began to change with the election of Petro, greeted from the beginning by Maduro, who has the political and ideological harmony with the new Colombian president that he never had with Duque or with his predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos. , to the point that the two governments are already preparing the resumption of diplomatic and consular ties.
The secretary of the Government of Villa del Rosario, Vladimir Lindarte, told Efe that since For months they have been working on the planning of La Parada and that they are ready for the full reopening of the border.
This preparation implies the activation of all security and public order protocols for when the border bridges are opened to vehicle traffic.
"The organization is made with street vendors and public service drivers, looking for order and for everything to clear up by the time the Simón Bolívar bridge is fully opened."Lindarte explains.
Meanwhile, Víctor Bautista, Secretary of Borders of the Government of Norte de Santander, assures that they have held meetings with the Colombian Foreign Ministry so that the border reopening is carried out in a gradual and orderly manner, which they hope will include the Tienditas bridge, the most modern of all and still brand new.
SIDE AND SIDE EXPECTATIONS
After the new Colombian foreign minister, Álvaro Leyva Durán, and his Venezuelan counterpart, Carlos Faría, met two weeks ago in the Venezuelan city of San Cristóbal and announced the next appointment of ambassadors, the expectation for normalization has only increase.
This Tuesday it was the turn of the Venezuelan Defense Minister, Vladimir Padrino López, to announce that by order of Maduro he will establish contact "immediately" with his Colombian colleague, Iván Velásquez, to "restore" military relations.
In recent days, versions have circulated about a possible meeting of the two presidents to settle once and for all the differences between the two governments, but Petro himself was in charge of landing those expectations on Monday.
"If there was a meeting there would be not only information but preparation and that does not exist"said the new Colombian president, who added that although they work for "the normalization of relations, which is a process that implies the opening of the border" that reconstruction of the broken links can take about two months.