Petro’s visit to Maduro sets stage for talks with ELN

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ELN in Arauca/

Colombian President Gustavo Petro will meet his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas. The face-to-face meeting is the first between Maduro and a Colombian President since 2016, when he hosted Juan Manuel Santos on August 11, 2016, in Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela.

As Petro completes 100 days in the presidency, the encounter with Maduro on Venezuelan soil will address bilateral issues, including the heightened security along a 2,200 km shared border, how to move more commerce between the two nations, and formal start of peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla this month. Human Right Watch recommended Petro also address the human rights situation in the neighboring country.

It was rumored that Maduro would meet Petro during his inauguration on August 7, or at the land border reopening ceremony in Cúcuta, departmental capital of Norte de Santander.  According to the press bulletin from Casa de Nariño, Petro will meet Maduro “for lunch” and set the official date for Maduro’s visit to Colombia. Venezuela is one of the guarantor nations for the peace talks with ELN, and key to Petro’s security initiative to deliver “Total Peace” to Colombia.

Diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Colombia were severed in 2019 when former Colombian President Iván Duque recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state. In 2017, then-Senator Iván Duque denounced Maduro before the International Criminal Court (ICC), for systematic violations of human rights and once elected president consistently referred to the Venezuelan head of state as a “war criminal” and “dictator”.

Colombia’s Ambassador to Venezuela, Armando Benedetti, will be present at Tuesday’s meeting in Miraflores and hinted to the media that President Petro will withdraw the Colombian government’s charges against Maduro before the ICC and announce the re-entry of Venezuela to the Inter-American Human Rights System.

President Petro would also like Maduro to crack-down on illegal movement of goods from Venezuela into Colombia given that one month since the reopening of the border, only US$2.5 million in products have passed through, and paltry number given the expectation surrounding the reopening. Petro’s sudden visit to Caracas will be carefully monitored by the US administration of President Joe Biden, and comes days after Brazil shifted back to the left with the election of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula’s victory has consolidated progressive governments throughout South America.