After seven years, Colombia and Venezuela reopen their border

Those living in border areas on both sides hailed the reopening and thanked President Gustavo Petro and President Nicolás Maduro for taking the crucial step

September 29, 2022 by Tanya Wadhwa
Colombian President Gustavo Petro, along with Colombian and Venezuelan officials, attended the reopening of the Colombia–Venezuela border at the Simón Bolívar Bridge on September 26. (Photo: Nicolás Maduro/ Twitter)

On Monday September 26, the governments of Colombia and Venezuela officially reopened their common land border following seven years of closure. In a ceremony held on the Simón Bolívar Bridge, the first cargo trucks were exchanged, marking the resumption of trade and the strengthening of relations between the two countries.

For the ceremony, Colombian President Gustavo Petro, along with Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva Durán, Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Germán Umaña Mendoza, Colombian ambassador to Venezuela Armando Benedetti, governor of the Norte de Santander department Silvano Serrano, among other officials, walked to the middle of the Simón Bolívar Bridge, dressed in white shirts carrying white roses. They were received by Venezuelan Transport Minister Ramón Velásquez Araguayán, Industry and National Production Minister Hipólito Abreu, Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia Félix Plasencia, governor of the Venezuelan state of Tachira Freddy Bernal, among other officials. The officials exchanged strong handshakes and roses.

The ceremony began with military bands playing each other’s national anthems. Following this, Colombian and Venezuelan tricolor gas balloons were released in the sky amid cheers and applause. Then, the first Venezuelan truck, loaded with rolls of aluminum and adorned with Venezuelan flags and yellow, blue and red balloons, left San Antonio del Táchira city for Cucuta city in Colombia, slowly crossing the Simón Bolívar Bridge. At the same time, four Colombian trucks, with products such as toilet paper, napkins, stationery and medical supplies, passed the Bridge from Cucuta and moved towards San Antonio del Táchira.

Dozens of people, living in border areas on both sides, witnessed the historic moment and celebrated the reopening of the border, shouting ¡Viva Colombia! ¡Viva Venezuela! ¡Viva Bolívar! [Long Live Colombia! Long Live Venezuela! Long Live (Liberator Simón) Bolívar!]. They thanked Colombian President Gustavo Petro and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro for taking the crucial step.

President Petro, from the border, described the day as “historic” and said that the reestablishment of relations between the two countries would benefit the economies of the border cities.

“Today is a historic day for the country, for the region, for South America and America in general…I want the first people who benefit to be those who live on either side of the border, those who took risks on the trails crossing the border,” said Petro.

“Globalization is first and foremost a relationship between neighbors. It is trade and unity between neighbors. What they did before was suicide, and that should not be repeated,” he added.

President Maduro, on his Twitter account, also described the day as “historic and transcendental.”

“We are resuming relations and taking firm steps to advance in the total and absolute opening of the border between brother peoples: Colombia and Venezuela. It is a historic and transcendental day!,” tweeted Maduro.

“The reopening of the border between Colombia and Venezuela is undoubtedly a historical fact, which marks the beginning of a stage of relations of brotherhood, respect and peace. We are peoples united by the unbreakable bond of Bolivarianism,” he wrote in another tweet.

Colombia and Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations in February 2019 after the former conservative Colombian President Iván Duque recognized self-proclaimed “president” Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and assisted his entry into Venezuela with so-called “humanitarian aid.”

During his election campaign, Petro pledged to resolve the border crisis in the Norte de Santander department by renewing relations with Venezuela. Following his inauguration on August 7, Petro began working with his Venezuelan counterpart on improving relations. The neighboring countries formally re-established political and diplomatic relations on August 29 by appointing ambassadors to each others’ nations.

The binational commercial reopening will solve multiple problems in the border areas, including the security issues. The closure of the borders led to an increase in irregular crossings, smuggling and drug trafficking by illegal armed groups, who took advantage of the closure. The reopening will also improve the socio-economic situation. According to statements from officials, many parties will benefit from the re-opening including Colombian small, medium and large merchants as well as the Venezuelan people, who struggle to obtain basic goods due to US sanctions.

Venezuelan Transport Minister Ramón Velásquez Araguayán, in a brief press conference after the ceremony, reported that cargo trucks can cross each day between 10 am and 5 pm, while pedestrian crossings will begin earlier, between 5 am and 6 pm.

“We hope that the borders will never be closed again, that it will only be an imaginary line, that this relationship will be permanent and go down in history,” said Velásquez, concluding the conference.