After a marathon meeting yesterday afternoon in Quito, Ecuador, Maduro and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos agreed on seven principles to help normalize the relations between the two countries.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa read a joint statement by Maduro and Santos at the end of the meeting. Below, Correa’s reading of that joint statement along with my translation:

Correa: This is what the joint statement reads: “The President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro Moros, and of the Republic of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, had an important meeting in Quito facilitated by President Rafael Correa, CELAC’s pro tempore President, and President Tabare Vasquez, UNASUR’s pro tempore President, to carry out a constructive dialogue to help overcome the difficulties in the bilateral relationship.

The heads of state recognized the fundamental importance of the regional unifying organizations such as UNASUR and CELAC. The Venezuelan and Colombian heads of state re-affirmed their historic ties, the fact that they are neighbours, and their common origin. They also ratify the importance of recognizing each country’s right to developed its own political, judicial, economic and social model, along with the capability of organizing itself in a manner best suited to its interests without foreign interference. Both heads of state have compromised to find a solution to the problems facing their common border, oriented towards co-existing well, being good neighbours, mutual respect, and economic and social development. They coincided on the importance of continuing to strengthen bilateral dialogue between both countries in order to guarantee compliance with these goals in the framework of respect for international law.

At the end of the meeting, the presidents of Colombia and Venezuela agreed to:

  1. The immediate return of their respective ambassadors.
  2. To carry out an investigation of the situation along the border.
  3. To arrange for a meeting of Ministerial teams immediately to begin to address the sensitive issues of the border, a meeting which will take place on Wednesday, [September] 23, in Caracas.
  4. The progressive normalization of the border.
  5. The coexistence of the economic, political and social models of each country.
  6. Calling on the spirit of brotherhood and unity to bring about a climate of respect and co-existence.
  7. Continue to work alongside Ecuador and Uruguay.

I want to finish by thanking Juan Manuel and Nicolas once more for having agreed to our invitation – from Tabare and me – for honouring us with their presence…

Maduro called the meeting “a triumph of common sense, dialogue and peace”, and said that there was no space for Venezuela and Colombia to hate one another. Santos called it a “serene, respectful and productive” meeting.

Below, two pictures from the meeting. The men in the picture, from left to right, are: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Santos Critical in Meeting Summary

In his summary of the meeting, Santos appeared more critical than his Venezuelan counterpart. He stressed that part of the investigation that will be conducted will include examining “what happened with the extradition of Colombians and the violation of air space”, referencing both the mass deportations and reports of incursions into Colombia by Venezuelan military aircraft over the past weeks. Santos also said that he understood Venezuela’s worry over the issue of criminal activity along the border, an issue that Santos claims by its nature requires the two countries to work together.

Speaking before the Asociacion Iberoamericana de Camaras de Comercio [Ibero-American Association of Chambers of Commerce] (AICO) after the meeting, Santos reminded the crowd that while he and Chavez differed one a wide range of topics, they had “mutual respect for our differences”. He said that he reminded Maduro of this fact during their meeting yesterday.

Santos also said that he felt that he and Maduro exchanged their first handshake yesterday “coldly”, and that he was completely taken by surprise by Maduro’s decision to close border crossings on August 19:

He didn’t even tell me. You can’t do that.

Former Colombia Presidents Looking to Sue Maduro

A group of ex-Colombian Presidents will meet tomorrow to weigh the possibility of bringing Maduro before international legal bodies over the border dispute. Former President Cesar Gaviria heads the group that also includes former Presidents Andres Pastrana and Alvaro Uribe.

Gavira hopes to build support from former Latin American leaders to voice their opposition to Maduro’s handling of the border crisis, and call attention to possible fraud attempts in the December 6 parliamentary elections.

Gavira has been an outspoken critic of the Venezuelan government’s actions over the past month regarding regarding its treatment of Colombian citizens. On Venezuelan authorities marking homes to be demolished by spray painting them with the letter “D”, Gavira has said:

… marking Colombian homes as Maduro’s government has done is an abominable Nazi custom that the Venezuelan President wants to bring to Latin America.

Guyana Expresses Concern over Venezuelan Troop Build Up at Border

Guyanese President David Granger alleged today that his government has detected an “extraordinary” build-up of Venezuelan soldiers along its border, saying:

We have received reports that Venezuela has begun an extraordinary military deployment along the border, something which affects Guyana’s territorial defenses.

Granger said that the “abnormal” military presence along the border is cause for alarm:

It’s very provocative, and we understand that Venezuela is going down a very dangerous path instead of finding a peaceful solution to the problem.

Venezuela and Guyana are locked in a century-old territorial dispute over the Essequibo region, a 160,000 square kilometer area that both countries claim as their own. Over the past several months, Guyana has exercised incremental authority over the region by awarding oil and mineral contracts to companies to operate in the territory.

Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez confirmed Granger’s suspicions later in the day, as he announced that the Venezuelan military was conducting exercises in Venezuela’s western region. Padrino Lopez said:

At this moment we’re conducting exercises towards the west of the country, an exercise of national deployment.

He provided no additional information.

Start of Ledezma Trial Deferred for Sixth Time

The start of Antonio Ledezma’s trial was deferred for a sixth time today, meaning that the mayor of Caracas will have to wait even longer in pre-trial detention.

Oriette Schadendorf, Ledezma’s step-daughter, announced through Twitter earlier today that the new start date for the trial has been set for October 21.

Omar Estacio, one of Ledezma’s lawyers, said that his client was not transported to court to face the judge due to a lack of official vehicles.

Ledezma was arrested on February 19 of this year in a raid on his offices in Caracas. Ledezma is charged with conspiring to overthrow the government.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com

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