The presidents of Colombia and Venezuela met on their border Thursday to sign an agreement designed to improve trade between the two countries and lift import duties on dozens of manufactured goods.
The deal comes as relations between the two countries improve following the election of Colombia’s first leftist president. Recently Colombia and Venezuela opened their border bridges to commercial cargo trucks for the first time in seven years.
“This is not only about making trade easier, but also about making it easier for people to move between both countries,” Colombian President Gustavo Petro said. “There has to be legality here, so that the rights of people are protected.”
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Trade between Colombia and Venezuela fell drastically after 2015 amid political disputes that led to frequent border closures.
In 2019, Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, shut the border for months, had shipping containers put on bridges connecting the countries and cut off diplomatic ties.
Maduro acted after Colombia’s then conservative government and the United States recognized Venezuelan opposition politician Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and tried to help him to bring truckloads of humanitarian aid into the cash-strapped country.
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Last year, Colombia and Venezuela renewed diplomatic relations following the election of Petro as Colombia’s president.
Petro has recognized Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and moved away from U.S. led efforts to isolate Venezuela’s authoritarian government.
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Colombia’s new president has said that he would like to convince Venezuela to rejoin the interamerican system of human rights, and has also asked Venezuela to assist Colombia’s efforts to broker a peace deal with the National Liberation Army, a rebel group that is present on both sides of the border.