Border bridges are being assessed ahead of the reopening, a decision that Bogota says will help contain "illegal economies and smuggling" between the South American neighbours.

Bilateral ties broke down in early 2019 after Caracas objected to members of Venezuelan opposition, supported by US, trying to send aid trucks across the border from Colombia.
Bilateral ties broke down in early 2019 after Caracas objected to members of Venezuelan opposition, supported by US, trying to send aid trucks across the border from Colombia. (Reuters Archive)

The full reopening of the Colombia-Venezuela border will come sooner rather than later but will depend on legal conditions and the overall re-establishment of bilateral ties, Colombia has said. 

"The border will open soon, but at the time when we have that coordination," Colombia's Commerce Minister German Umana said on Thursday during a meeting in Cucuta of business people from both sides of the border, including the Colombia-Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce.

"Our business owners are looking for this not to be subject to sanctions," Umana added, without offering details.

The reopening will not mean a large uptick in trade in the short term but will be key to re-establishing institutional control in an area affected by illegal economies and smuggling, Umana said.

"What will happen when we open the bridges is that we will replace illegality, money laundering, contraband," he said.

Trade between the two countries this year could total more than $600 million, he added, after reaching $316 million in the first half, about the same as it reached during all of 2021.

Relations between the two countries have warmed in the nearly two weeks since Gustavo Petro was sworn in as Colombia's new president. Petro has promised to reopen largely-shuttered trade across the porous 2,219-kilometre border.

Petro and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro have each named ambassadors to each others' countries.

Humanitarian crisis

A United Nations envoy said last year that sanctions on Venezuela put in place by the US and the EU were worsening a humanitarian crisis and recommended relaxing them, much to the chagrin of the country's opposition.

Colombia's transport minister said border bridges were being assessed ahead of the reopening.

"Beyond the reopening of the border we hope to reactivate our industrial zones," said Freddy Sandoval, head of the automakers' guild in the Venezuelan state of Tachira, adding the country had the continent's most extensive auto-making infrastructure two decades ago.

"We have to recover that," he said.

Bilateral relations broke down in early 2019 after Caracas objected to members of the Venezuelan opposition, supported by the US Trump administration, trying to send aid trucks across the border from Colombia. 

Trade between the two countries was $7 billion in 2008 before Venezuela's then-president Hugo Chavez froze it in protest of a military deal between Bogota and Washington.

Source: Reuters