Colombia leader to see Venezuela’s Maduro as isolation thaws

The presidents of Colombia and Venezuela will have a face-to-face meeting Tuesday for the first time in six years as Colombia’s new leader moves rapidly to improve long-frigid relations with a socialist neighbor still facing international sanctions.

The meeting announced by the office of Colombian President Gustavo Petro is scheduled to take place in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.

The announcement said the meeting would cover trade issues and explore ways for Venezuela to rejoin international institutions like the Interamerican Court on Human Rights. It follows a visit to Caracas earlier this month by Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva.

Since Colombia’s first leftist president took office on Aug. 7, he has broken decisively with U.S.-led efforts to isolate Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, whose government is not recognized as legitimate by many nations due to a reelection in 2018 that was widely seen as undemocratic.

Petro restored diplomatic relations and cross-border trade and accepted Venezuela’s help in quelling remaining guerrilla conflicts in Colombia, particularly with the National Liberation Army, which operates on both sides of the border.

Meanwhile, the internal opposition to Maduro, headed by former congressional leader Juan Guaidó, has found its support eroding both domestically and abroad.

While the U.S. and several other nations maintain sanctions on Venezuelan officials and institutions, nineteen members of the Organization of American States — including Colombia — this month backed a proposal to remove the opposition’s envoy from the regional forum for political and economic issues.

The measure, however fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to be put on the agenda of the OAS General Assembly.

Guaidó’s “interim government” is still formally recognized by the U.S. 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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