On New Year's Day Sunday, Venezuela and Colombia opened a key bridge that linked the two countries. It had been closed for nearly seven years amid political tensions.

It launches an era of improved relations under Colombia’s new President Gustavo Petro, reported the Associated Press. For the opening ceremony, delegations led by Colombian trade minister Germán Umaña and Freddy Bernal, governor of Venezuela’s Tachira state, met in the middle of the Tienditas bridge. It links Tachira and Colombia’s Norte de Santander state. Bernal said that now all the "border crossings are open for transport."

In 2016, construction of the bridge, which cost more than $32 million to build, had ended. But it was not inaugurated because of the political tension between two the South American countries. It was constructed to ease congestion on the two other binational bridges in the area and facilitate trade. Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolás Maduro ordered more than a dozen cargo containers that were placed on the bridge to symbolically block it in 2019. It was done to protest attempts by the opposition to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela from Colombia.

In September 2022, diplomatic and commercial relations between the two countries were reestablished. It happened after the inauguration of Petro, a former guerrilla, as Colombia’s President. His predecessor, Iván Duque had labeled Maduro a “dictator” and made Colombia one of 50 countries that recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim President. According to VOA, Tienditas bridge was the last remaining crossing linking the countries to be reopened along their 1,367-mile border after the relations were restored.

Ronal Rodríguez, a researcher at the Venezuela Observatory in Colombia’s Universidad del Rosario, said that n political terms, "Tienditas is the symbol of the recovery of dialogue between the two countries."

The key symbol of the restoration of relations was the first one-on-one meeting between Petro and Maduro in November 2022, said Pedro Benítez, a political analyst and professor at the Central University of Venezuela. The reestablishment of trade relations between the neighbors so far has been “very bumpy,” said Benitez. This was so as incoming Colombian products have been very expensive due to “non-institutional obstacles attributed to Venezuelan officials.”

In September 2022, the resumption of commercial ties started with the enabling of traffic across the Simón Bolívar and Francisco de Paula Santander bridges. From September to November 2022, 385 trucks passed over the bridges. Most trucks, which were from Colombia into Venezuela, carried products such as textiles, medical supplies, fiber optics, toilet paper and cardboard.

From Venezuela into Colombia, motors, coiled steel and pipes were transported. Total trade between the two countries reached $512 million between January and October 2022, reported CTV News. It is an increase from $394 million in all of 2021. But still, it is a long way from the $7 billion in bilateral trade that was seen in 2008.

This is a representational image. pixabay

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