Colombia’s Santos Sets Conditions for Talks with Maduro on Border Dispute

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Thursday he was open to talks with Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro aimed at resolving an ongoing border spat, but he set three conditions pertaining to respect for his countrymen’s “basic rights.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Thursday he was open to talks with Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro aimed at resolving an ongoing border spat, but he set three conditions pertaining to respect for his countrymen’s “basic rights.”

“I want President Maduro to know I’m willing to meet, but Colombians must have their basic rights respected and we need him to take steps in that direction,” Santos said at an official event in the northwestern province of Antioquia.

Those steps include opening a humanitarian corridor to allow “more than 2,000 children who are on the other side of the border to attend school here in Colombia,” Santos said, adding that his government made that request “many days ago.”

Santos also said Caracas must allow the more than 11,000 Colombians who have exited Venezuela since Maduro ordered the partial closing of the border – including deportees and those who abandoned their homes voluntarily – to go back and recover their possessions.

Maduro ordered a major border crossing closed last month, citing the need to step up the battle against smugglers and alleged paramilitary gangs.

“For 11 days now, we’ve had 15 trucks ready on the border to head to the sites where those deportees lived and recover what few belongings they have. We need the Venezuelan authorities, who have promised us they would give their authorization, to let these trucks through so they can (gather) their possessions,” Santos said.

Lastly, Santos demanded that the Venezuelan government “comply with minimum protocols and not mistreat those Colombians” targeted for deportation.

“If those conditions, which are minimum humanitarian conditions, are met, I’ll sit down to fix this problem,” he added.

“Venezuela’s troubles are not made in Colombia,” Santos said in the speech, adding that his government bears no responsibility for the scarcity of goods in the neighboring country nor its currency woes or high inflation.

“On the contrary, we Colombians want the tensions in Venezuela to subside. We want that more than anyone because we’re neighbors, because what happens in Venezuela affects us for better or worse, and Venezuela’s wellbeing and prosperity are in our best interest.”

Santos said he was confident that the border crisis that erupted on Aug. 19 would be resolved via diplomatic channels but he also demanded respect for his countrymen’s “dignity.”

The Venezuelan government has deported 1,381 Colombians over the past two weeks, Colombian immigration officials said Thursday.

UN agencies, meanwhile, say an additional 10,000 Colombians have chosen to abandon Venezuela voluntarily for fear that otherwise they would be forcibly removed.

Latin American Herald Tribune |

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