Colombia’s defense minister met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and other top officials to work out a joint security plan that would allow the reopening of the border separating the two neighbors.
Venezuela unilaterally began closing the border in August last year after three members of the military were shot and amid a growing economic and institutional crisis in the Socialist-run state.
The Venezuela-Colombia border region has long been a troubled region, mainly because of both countries’ neglect in the region.
On the Colombian side, guerrilla groups and drug traffickers have long become the de facto authority in parts of the border region.
On Venezuela’s side, drug traffickers benefiting from corruption have become increasingly prominent.
On both sides, smugglers have tried to benefit from Venezuela’s dropping currency to sell contraband product in Colombia.
Now, almost a year later, Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas and his Venezuelan counterpart General Vladimir Padrino Lopez agreed to “revive” bilateral cooperation seeking to curb organized crime along the border.
“Thanks to the efforts made by both countries we can say that organized crime has received major blows on both sides of the border,” said Villegas.
“In Colombia we have had important results against organized crimes and the clans. The majority of their ringleaders have been arrested, and the seizures of drugs and the destruction of [drug] laboratories have been considerable.”
Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas
In order to take steps necessary for Caracas to agree to reopening the border, the security forces of both countries will bilaterally begin coordinating a border security policy on July 4, said Villegas.
The two governments and their security forces will be sharing information on “drug trafficking routes, money laundering and other criminal activities,” according to the Colombian defense minister.
Maduro said he was waiting to see the “binational security plans” to revoke his decision to close the border that spurred the cross-border displacement of thousands of Colombians who cited fear of persecution as the main reason to abandon Venezuela.