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| 3/12/2010 12:00:00 AM

The road ahead for Colombia-Venezuela relations

March 12--In announcing on March 8 that Venezuela is interested in restoring diplomatic ties with Colombia, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro noted that any improvement will not take place while current Colombian President Álvaro Uribe remains in office. The jab was just one of many that Bogotá and Caracas have traded over the past eight tumultuous years, but the conciliatory rhetoric suggests that the two countries may be turning a corner in bilateral relations.

Colombia did little to dampen concerns over the politically sensitive sovereignty issue, and in fact aggravated them in July 2009 when it announced a deal providing the U.S. with access to seven military bases to conduct counternarcotics operations in the Andes. The move erased what small progress the two governments had previously made, and further contributed to latent mistrust.

A lot remains to be accomplished. Ties between the two neighbors, always tense, took a turn for the worse after a March 2008 attack by Colombian forces on Ecuadorian soil that resulted in the death of Raúl Reyes, a high ranking official of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The attack set off one of the worst diplomatic disputes in recent years in Latin America, complete with bitter recriminations over sovereignty and foreign influence in the region. Two years later, the effects are still being felt.

In the days following the attack, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez sent thousands of troops to the Colombian border and severed diplomatic ties with Bogotá. Citing a threat to Venezuelan sovereignty, Chávez went on the offensive, using Colombia's cross-border attack as evidence that Uribe was Washington's pawn.

Read more here.
 
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