Colombia and Venezuela will reopen their common border to the transport of goods | International Trade News

The easing of restrictions comes as neighboring countries seek to normalize relations after years of tension.

The Colombian and Venezuelan presidents have announced that commercial flights will resume between the two countries and that cargo transport will be allowed to cross their shared border on September 26 after a years-long closure.

Friday’s announcement marks the latest example of increased cooperation between neighboring countries since leftist Colombian President Gustavo Petro took office in August on a promise to restore formal relations with Venezuela.

The 2,200 km (1,370 mile) common border between Colombia and Venezuela is currently open to pedestrian traffic, but only limited freight transport.

“We confirm the government’s commitment to restore fraternal relations”, Petro said on Twitter on Friday. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro also tweeted that “the exchange and cooperation between our peoples is off to a good start”.

“In addition, we will resume flights between Caracas-Bogota and Valencia-Bogota,” Maduro added.

Last month, the two countries restored full diplomatic relations after a three-year hiatus. The two countries have now accepted each other’s ambassadors, but the two heads of state have yet to announce a state visit.

Under Petro’s right-wing predecessor Ivan Duque, Colombia refused to recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s leader after his re-election in 2018, which Duque called fraudulent.

The Colombian ambassador arrived in Venezuela last month and was greeted by Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Rander Pena Ramirez, who tweeted that “our historical ties call us to work together for the happiness of our peoples” .

Caracas severed ties with Bogota in 2019 after members of the Venezuelan opposition tried to cross Colombian territory with trucks loaded with food and medicine.

He also closed the border, saying the aid masked an opposition coup attempt with US backing. Embassies and consulates of both countries have been closed and flights between neighbors have been grounded.

Maduro had ordered the closure of legal crossings in 2015 after an incident during an anti-smuggling operation along the border. Foot traffic eventually resumed and some goods continued to cross a bridge to the north.

The closures have not ended the transport of various goods, some of them on dirt roads by armed groups, to Venezuela. Criminal groups have also used the roads for smuggling operations.

Colombia has previously accused Venezuela of offering assistance and shelter to armed groups in the border region, a claim supported by a Human Rights Watch report in March.

The Venezuelan-Colombian Chamber of Economic Integration has estimated that reopening crossings to car traffic could lead to a substantial increase in trade, from $406 million last year to around $1.2 billion this year.

The Venezuelan government has said economic activity in the year following the full reopening of the border could reach more than $4 billion.