Venezuela, Colombia seek to patch up relations

Presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela met Tuesday in a bid to overcome differences that have led both countries to cut off their diplomatic relations, Earth Times reports. The leaders symbolically met in the Colombian Caribbean town of Santa Marta, at the residence where Simón Bolívar, the hero of both countries’ independence, died on December 17, 1830.

Upon his arrival in Santa Marta, Santos, who was inaugurated Saturday, said he felt “optimism” about the meeting, although he did not want “to generate too many expectations.”

Chávez said had the will to “rebuild what was destroyed.” He presented Colombian Foreign Minister María Angela Holguín with some red carnations, and broke protocol by getting out of his car to greet residents of a humble neighborhood who were cheering for him.

According to Colombian government sources, Santos and Chávez were to talk privately first, and then meet with Holguin and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro. They were also set to be joined by former Argentine president Nestor Kirchner, who has played a major role in brokering an agreement as secretary general of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur).

Tension was rife between Chávez and Santos’ predecessor and mentor Alvaro Uribe. “The talks will be frank, transparent and direct. The most important thing is to have permanent communication, because we cannot persist on this situation which is very harmful for both countries,” Holguín said. Santos said in his inaugural speech that his foreign policy priority was to rebuild relations with Ecuador and Venezuela.

Chávez had ordered a diplomatic “freeze” a year ago after Bogota announced it would allow the US military to use seven Colombian Army bases. He broke off relations completely on July 22, when Uribe accused Venezuela at the Organization of American States of harboring 1,500 Colombian guerrillas.

For the original report go to,colombia-seek-patch-relations.html

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