Venezuela will pay the first $70 million of the $800 million it owes to Colombian businesses to airlines Avianca and Aires.
A Colombo-Venezuelan commission in charge of the re-establishment of trade ties decided to prioritize paying the airlines, in its first meeting on Monday,
The commission is one of five set up to oversee the full restoration of diplomatic and commercial ties between the two countries, cut after a series of clashes between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Following the inauguration of Juan Manuel Santos as Colombia’s president, the neighboring countries agreed to normalize relations.
According to Colombian Trade Minister Sergio Diaz-Granados, debts whose authenticity presents no doubts, such as those in the airline sector, will be the first to be paid. The outstanding debts to Avianca and Aires are expected to be settled later this week. The minister said within the next two weeks the commission would study the remaining debts one by one, prioritizing them in order of certainty of their authenticity.
The primary purpose of the commission is to assuage the concerns of Colombian exporters that Venezuela will be unable to pay back its debts to Colombian businesses. According to Colombian export federation Proexport, Venezuela’s trade debt to Colombia surpasses US$786 million, owed to 250 Colombian companies.
Diaz-Granados said the decision was “a great advance and a concrete solution” taken as part of the re-establishment of ties with Venezuela, previously Colombia’s largest trading partner in the region.