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From “chucky” to “assassin”: the hostile relationship between Colombia and Venezuela and the turn with Petro in power

There is no photo showing together Ivan Duke Y Nicholas Maduro. In the years in which both have been presidents of Colombia Y Venezuelarespectively, the leaders have not only exchanged personal qualifications and high caliber accusations, but have also taken the relationship between their countries, once neighbors and first-tier partners, to a level of estrangement hardly seen in the past.

LOOK: How will relations between Colombia and Venezuela be with Petro in power?

A little over a month in power, Duque does not back down from his position on his Venezuelan counterpart. “Nicolás Maduro is a criminal, he is a murderer and that is why I denounced him before the International Criminal Court”, said the Colombian in an interview with the Efe agency. The tone follows the line of what has lately been the norm in the relationship between Colombia and Venezuela, a bond that is expected to change now that Gustavo Petro will succeed Duque as head of the coffee country.

Since Duque became president in August 2018, he has maintained a constant exchange of criticism with Maduro and supported calls to isolate the regime and call for independent elections in Venezuela. In these years he has accused the Chavista leader of harboring “Colombian terrorists for many years,” something he described as “nonsense.” To Maduro”his donkey ears are sticking out more and more”, he said in 2019, when he was in the middle of a state visit in Shanghai (China).

For his part, Maduro has branded Duque an “imperialism wimp” and of being behind plans to overthrow and even assassinate him. “Devil who hates Venezuela”, “imbecile”, “Porky” or “Chucky” are some of the adjectives that made headlines.

It looks like a slingshot. He has the face of a little angel, they make you want to grab his cheeks like that; ‘Chucky’, ‘Chucky’, ‘Chucky’ is what you are (…) he is conspiring daily against our country (…) Great son… of yours, great son of Santander and all yours”, Said the Chavista in 2018.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has accused Duque of plotting to remove him from power. (Photo: AFP) (FEDERICO PARRA/)

History of a hostile relationship

The hostilities between the governments of Colombia and Venezuela did not start with Duque and Maduro. Diplomatic relations have escalated to crisis situations on several occasions since Álvaro Uribe and Hugo Chávez were at the head of those countries. Both assumed power in 2002.

In the cocktail of factors that were aggravating the situation there are several protagonists, among them the relationship between Venezuela and the FARC, the operations of the Colombian Army, drug trafficking and, of course, the ideological differences that distanced the two governments.

The first factor for the breakdown of the relationship between Colombia and Venezuela was a very marked ideological principle between left and right, although it was not explicitly stated. The second was the Colombian armed conflict. It all started when Hugo Chávez began to shelter the FARC and ELN groups, in fact, they continue to do so“, he says Trade Néstor Julián Restrepo, doctor in politics and communication and coordinator of the master’s degree in Political Communication at Eafit University.

The Colombian expert explains that the border between Venezuela and Colombia is so gigantic and porous that it allows armed groups to move peacefully, as well as citizens from one side to the other. “Uribe and Chávez begin to fight when Uribe declares direct war on the FARC, then the border catches fire. The fight between Colombia and Venezuela is historic, not only because of the FARC, it has also been over territory, over places like the Guajira peninsula. They are two brothers who love each other very much and fight too much.“, it states.

On several occasions, Hugo Chávez insulted Álvaro Uribe and threatened to break off relations with Colombia.  (Photo: AFP)

On several occasions, Hugo Chávez insulted Álvaro Uribe and threatened to break off relations with Colombia. (Photo: AFP)

For the Colombian journalist Margarita Barrero, it is important to emphasize that although the deterioration of relations has to do with the conflict in Colombia, it deepened with the different versions that they defended, on one side and the other, on various issues such as the paramilitaries or what occurs on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. “On this last issue there have been serious historical differences between the governments of both countries. For example, the Venezuelan government said that the guerrillas were entering their territory and, on the other hand, the Colombian government said that this was happening because Venezuela was training the guerrillas. That’s where the conflicts begin”, points to this newspaper.

“The relationship was totally broken”

The tensions were reflected in the tense relationship between Chávez and Uribe, in whose governments – and later when Juan Manuel Santos succeeded Uribe in Colombia – the borders were closed and opened several times. Despite this, experts point out, the dispute only reached the diplomatic level, or at least it did until Duque, from the Democratic Center, the party created by Uribe, came to power.

The relationship was completely broken during the government of Duque”, says Restrepo, who remembers that when Uribe was in the presidency, at the height of the fight with Chávez, Colombian businessmen pressured the Colombian president to talk to Chávez again. “But with Duque the relationship was broken and went from the political part to the commercial part”, he insists.

Ivan Duke.  (Photo: AFP)

Ivan Duke. (Photo: AFP) (FABRICE COFFRINI/)

Venezuela was Colombia’s second largest trading partner after the United States, so the economic crisis, especially on the border, was very strong. The only thing the Duque government did was isolate the country more and more because for us Venezuela was very important, not only because it is a brother country, but because it is the complementary country of the market. Venezuelans and Colombians practically consumed the same thing and Colombia was the pantry. that broke“, Add.

As proof, remember that between Maduro and Duque there was never a rapprochement or state visits, but moments of clashes and very strong fights. Both countries do not have a consul or ambassador in the other nation due to the rupture of diplomatic relations that occurred in 2019 after Colombia recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela. Since then, Bogotá promoted the formation of the Lima Group to reject Maduro’s last re-election.

Duque went so far as to say that Maduro’s dictatorship had a few hours left and Duque left first than Maduro”, comments Restrepo.

Barrero adds that Duque never wanted to have an approach with Maduro and yes with Guaidó. “A concert was even held on the Colombian border in support of him, it was a binational event, but beyond the show, which what it does is establish a political position of non-acceptance of the Maduro government, the government has always said that Venezuela not a democracy, but a dictatorship”.

On the other hand, with regard to migration in Colombia, it stands out that Duque implemented an effective policy so that migrants had an option that would make life in the country easier for them. “Now, I believe that Duque’s position does not have so much to do with Venezuela and it does have a lot to do with the United States, of which Colombia is a partner, especially on issues related to the armed conflict and drug management. It is a nod to the United States, who is told that we do not agree with Maduro, but we are responsible with Venezuelan migration”. “At this moment we have almost two million Venezuelans and most of them arrived from 2018“, Explain.

The reception of more than 1.8 million Venezuelans in Colombia has been classified as the most far-reaching humanitarian act in Latin America in recent years.  (Photo: AFP)

The reception of more than 1.8 million Venezuelans in Colombia has been classified as the most far-reaching humanitarian act in Latin America in recent years. (Photo: AFP)

However, the expert considers that it is very difficult to know if the relationship between Colombia and Venezuela reached its most critical level under the presidency of Duque. “The relationship between the two countries had very complicated moments. Álvaro Uribe’s statements were very strong towards the Venezuelan government and there was tension every time the borders were closed and every time they were opened”, he points.

I could not say that this is a peak moment, but rather that this is a relationship that has been slowly deteriorating”, he adds.

A turn with Gustavo Petro?

After the triumph in Colombia of Gustavo Petro, the first left-wing president that country will have, attention focused on the future of the relationship with Venezuela. From Caracas, Chavismo did not take long to celebrate the electoral result in the neighboring country.

Although Petro, a former guerrilla and former mayor of Bogotá, has distanced himself from the governments of Nicaragua and Venezuela, he has promised to normalize relations with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

The elected president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro.  (Photo: EFE)

The elected president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro. (Photo: EFE) (Carlos Ortega / EFE /)

The changes are already taking place. There was already a first conversation between Petro and Maduro and they are thinking of reestablishing diplomatic relations. Now, it is not that they are going to accept themselves and go back to what they were before because it no longer suits Colombia to say that Venezuela is not a dictatorship”, says Restrepo, who defends that, beyond ideological differences, it is neither sustainable nor favorable to maintain countries without diplomatic relations or with affected borders.

I don’t know if the rest of Latin America understands this, but they cannot close the border, they can fight all they want, but they cannot close the border or prevent goods from passing from one side to the other, much less than the inhabitants, who culturally they are the same, do not allow them to cross to see their brothers”, he points.

Barrero adds that a very important aspect will be how Petro decides to act against Juan Guaidó, that is, if he follows the line of Duque and recognizes him as interim president of Venezuela or not. “That will also determine relations between the two countries. And it would also be necessary to see if it wants to intervene as an ally of the left in the Venezuelan process (such as Cuba) or assume a position like that of Mexico, which does not intervene”, he maintains.

You have to give Petro time to see what he can give in and what not when he is in power”, he concludes.

Source: Elcomercio

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