Venezuela has canceled all scheduled meetings with Colombia concerning an ongoing closure of the border, Colombia’s foreign minister said Wednesday.
According to Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said that for now there will be no presidential meeting between him and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, nor between their Defense Ministers — a new setback for the deteriorated security relations between the two countries.
The two countries have been at odds over border security since August when Venezuela surprisingly and unilaterally closed the main border crossing, deported 1,500 Colombians and spurred the voluntary displacement of 20,000 other Colombians living in Venezuela.
The move caused a diplomatic crisis that the two countries have slowly been trying to solve bilaterally, allegedly with success.
However, in spite the claimed success, Maduro again unilaterally decided to stop the meetings.
“We have told Venezuela that these meetings of the Defense Ministers and other forces that were scheduled a month ago in Caracas are important to carry out,” explained Holguin. “We carried out two and then the Venezuelan Government cancelled the rest.”
The cancellation of the meetings on Maduro’s part will hold up the bilateral advancements on border security issues, on which both countries have expressed desire to take action, although collaboration has been hard to achieve.
In just a month from now, Venezuela will host its parliamentary elections, and with extremely low approval ratings (24.3% in July according to Datanalisis), Maduro’s party is expected by many to take a big hit.
Maduro faces a difficult scenario with an economic recession, commodity shortages and the highest inflation in Latin American for foreign debt payments, which could take a heavy toll on his party in the parliamentary runnings December 6. The current border relations with Colombia represent one of Maduro’s top issues on his political platform in his campaign for the upcoming elections.
Maduro closed the border on August 19 of this year, claiming that contraband smugglers were undermining Venezuela’s troubled economy and that Colombian paramilitary groups were out to destabilize the neighboring country’s political system.
Although the border remains closed between the two nations, the Colombian National Government stands firm in its belief that security must be achieved through joint efforts, whenever Maduro is able to reschedule.