By MANUEL RUEDA – Associated Press
The Colombian and Venezuelan presidents will meet for the first time in six years on Tuesday as Colombia’s new leader moves quickly to improve longstanding relations with a socialist neighbor still facing international sanctions.
The meeting announced by the office of Colombian President Gustavo Petro is to take place in the Venezuelan capital Caracas.
The announcement said the meeting would cover trade issues and explore ways for Venezuela to join international institutions such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This follows a visit to Caracas earlier this month by Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva.
Since Colombia’s first leftist president took office on August 7, he has broken decisively with US-led efforts to isolate Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, whose government is not recognized as legitimate by many countries due to a re-election in 2018 widely seen as undemocratic. .
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Petro restored diplomatic relations and cross-border trade and accepted help from Venezuela to quell remaining guerrilla conflicts in Colombia, particularly with the National Liberation Army, which operates on both sides of the border.
Meanwhile, internal opposition to Maduro, led by former Congress leader Juan Guaidó, has seen its support erode both domestically and abroad.
While the United States and several other countries maintain sanctions against Venezuelan officials and institutions, nineteen members of the Organization of American States — including Colombia — backed a proposal this month to withdraw the envoy of the opposition regional forum for political and economic issues.
The measure, however, failed to achieve the two-thirds majority required to be placed on the agenda of the OAS General Assembly.
Guaidó’s ‘interim government’ is still officially recognized by the United States and dozens of other countries, but it has no control over other Venezuelan institutions and has failed to weaken Maduro’s socialist administration. .
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