Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro arrived on Friday in Cartagena with over 70 Venezuelan officials to discuss important bilateral issues such as contraband, gas, transport, and more, according to Colombia’s Blu Radio.
The main topic to be discussed will be over illegal contraband, which is estimated to cost Colombia $800 million a year.
In recent years, Colombia and Venezuela have had tense relationships, almost reaching the point of war in 2008 when Santos was Colombia’s Defense Minister under President Alvaro Uribe. Santos ordered a bombing and raiding campaign on a camp in Ecuador to kill Raul Reyes, commander of Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC, which did not go over well in the Latin American community.
Democratic Center Party stages symbolic protest
Former president and current Senator Alvaro Uribe’s Democratic Center Party vehemently rejected the visit of Nicolas Maduro using words like “dictator,” “murderer,” and “FARC protector” to describe the Venezuelan head of state.
Democratic Center Senator Paola Holguin said, “In light of the abuses of democracy in the sister republic of Venezuela, the Democratic Center condemns the repressive and dictatorial actions that violate human rights and the political rights to Venezuelan citizens and Colombians in the neighboring country,” reported Blu Radio.
In protests against Maduro’s government and his country’s failing economy, 42 people have been killed and hundreds injured.
The Democratic Center in the northern state of Bolivar made a cross with the names of the dead to protest the visit of Maduro.
— CDemocrático Bolivar (@CDemocraticoBol) August 1, 2014
Alvaro Uribe also met with opposition members from Venezuela on Friday who have traditionally been close with Colombia’s political establishment.
Colombia’s ties with the opposition have been a point of conflict between the two countries as Maduro has frequently claimed that Colombia was attempting to de-legitimize and destabilize the Venezuelan government.
The Democratic Center and Alvaro Uribe asserted that Venezuelan authorities have allowed FARC guerrillas to operate within their borders.
German Sahid, a political science professor from the Rosario University, said, “For Maduro, the meeting is key to legitimize his image in the region, and for Santos to strengthen the peace process that is being mediated by Venezuela,” reported Colombia’s Vanguardia newspaper.
- Santos y Maduro enrutarán los nexos bilaterales (Vanguardia)
- Santos y Maduro integrarán iniciativas de comercio para combatir el contrabando (Blu Radio)
- Alvaro Uribe (Twitter)
- Centro Democratico (Twitter)