History, practicality reunite Colombia, Venezuela

21:10, August 11, 2010      

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Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez agreed Tuesday to reestablish diplomatic relations after a long meeting in Santa Marta, a city on Colombia's Caribbean coast.

What impressed the world was not only the two leaders walking shoulder to shoulder at a colonial-era residence where South American independence hero Simon Bolivar died in 1830, but also their description of bilateral relations as "brotherly countries."

From a rupture on July 22 to the restoration, the dramatic change in bilateral relations in merely 19 days spoke of a truth -- the two Andean countries are neighbors after all. Neighbors that share a deep historical and cultural origin, a long friendship and substantial common interests. Bitter disagreements and outside influence will not leave the two countries in a tense spot for long.

The mere choice of Santa Marta as the venue for the presidential meeting carried symbolic meaning. Both countries became Spanish colonies in the 16th century and have had similar experiences in fighting against colonial rule and striving for independence.

Chavez, who regards Bolivar as the inspiration of his socialist movement, said it was appropriate to mend fences at such a sacred place. During their meeting, both leaders quoted Bolivar several times as their inspiration, an reflection of the historic and cultural bonds between the neighbors.

Bitter disagreements over the status of the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and relations with the United States have separated the two countries in recent years.

Bogota's claim at the Organization of American States last month that its rebel militants were hiding in Venezuelan territory became the last straw. Venezuela severed ties with its neighbor and beefed up its military at the border in retaliation.

But it is a fact that the once close economic and trade activities between Colombia and Venezuela plummeted from 7 billion U.S. dollars to 700 million dollars last year amid fears of a potential war.

Considering the challenges of shoring up their economies in the wake of the global financial crisis, the countries' break-up was set to lead to loss-loss. Practical economic calculations and substantial interest for people on the border finally took the upper hand in the dispute.

Santos told reporters after the meeting that the rapprochement between two men with "so many and such frequent differences decide to turn the page and think of the future ... That's something I think we have to celebrate."

Chavez said he doesn't support the Colombian rebels or any other insurgent group, adding that the neighboring countries are starting down a new road after years of often thorny ties under Santos' predecessor.

In Latin America, behind diplomatic rows often lies the shadow of major powers. Different relations with the major powers, sometimes, become a factor leading to a diplomatic crisis between two countries. It is undeniable that the influence of major countries would not go away with the rapprochement between Venezuela and Colombia.

However, reducing outside influences and ironing out diplomatic feuds in the interests of two neighbors are the highlight of their reconciliation, and will be an important revelation for developing neighborly relations in the future.

Source: Xinhua


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